Canada Reads 2016 had an amazing short-list of novels and a fantastic group of dedicated defenders. The focus for Canada Reads 2016 was starting over and was my first year reading all of the short-list. Although each novel had the same theme, each book showed amazing depth, uniqueness and different writing styles. Although The Illegal was the winner of this contest, all the novels are winners and have important messages to share with Canadians. We all need to read more Canadian literature and support our Canadian authors!
Here are my blog reviews of each of the books in the order that they were read (click on the blue underlined text to read the blog posts):
- The Illegal (Lawrence Hill) – I was very pleased to meet Lawrence Hill at Hamilton Winterfest and to learn more about his life experience and writing process which led to The Illegal. It was so refreshing to hear him speak openly about his sister’s mental health challenges and his efforts to publish her book posthumously. Hill had a very strong defender in Clara Hughes – she too has spoken openly about her mental health challenges and is clearly a competitor who loved the book that she was defending!
- Birdie (Tracey Lindberg) – this book was not what I was expecting but I loved it. It was a beautifully written tale that needs to be told about the experience of some aboriginal families. I was so excited to hear that the defender Bruce Poon Tip is donating 10000 copies of Birdie to high schools across Canada – what an amazing and generous gift to schools! Birdie is a story that needs to be understood by our young students so that it is never repeated and to help students understand the lasting impact of residential schools.
- Bone and Bread (Saleema Nawaz) – Bone and Bread is an emotional story of two sisters who look after each other despite the tragic loss of their parents. It is the story of one sister trying desperately to keep her sister healthy and then having to deal with loss as the remaining member of her immediate family. It is a story of family dealing with issue after issue yet supporting each other. I enjoyed the Montreal setting and wish that I could taste those Montreal bagels!! I hope that this is only the first novel written by Saleema Nawaz!
- Minister Without Portfolio (Michael Winter) – Unfortunately this was the first book voted off the shelf yet it was a beautifully written novel set in Newfoundland. It told the story of a man who heads to Afghanistan after a break up only to be involved in an event that results in the death of his friend. He returns to the rock and as he rebuilds a home, rebuilds his life and tries to improve the lives of those around him he comes to terms with the past. At first it seemed unusual reading a novel with no quotation marks but in the end, I enjoyed the blending of conversation and thought! I am looking forward to meeting Michael Winter at his writing workshop as part of GritLit in Hamilton in April.
- The Hero’s Walk (Anita Rau Badami) – This was my last novel that I read for Canada Reads. It was different than the others in that the setting was mainly in India. It told a story of a family who because of fixed beliefs became estranged from their beloved daughter when she married a Canadian man. When the daughter died, leaving a little girl to move to India to be brought up by her grandparents everyone had to adapt and slowly move to the stage of starting over. This novel represents stubbornness, perseverance, resilience and love and left me wanting to know more about how Sripathi started over and the experience of the young girl moving to an new country with a very different culture. The defender Vinay Virmani has committed to bringing this novel to screen which is very exciting!
CBC has done a wonderful job encouraging Canadians to read through Canada Reads. The shows were televised, played on the radio and available as podcasts to make it accessible across the country and when it was convenient for followers. I had to avoid twitter until I was able to to listen to the podcasts to avoid spoilers and next year, would love to be member in the audience for one of the days!
Our book club members have each chosen to read one of the Canada Reads books and I look forward to our discussion next week!