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PRINT EDITION
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With some of the year's biggest books coming out in the throes of summer, why not pick up a literary blockbuster for the beach? Prepare to laugh, cry and get a little introspective with Becky Toyne's fiction picks
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By BECKY TOYNE
Special to The Globe and Mail
  
  

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Saturday, June 16, 2018 – Page P10

FOR DARK HUMOUR AND A FAMILY MYSTERY Mama's Boy by David Goudreault (BookThug, 200 pages) A major success in the author's native Quebec, Mama's Boy is a darkly comic novel about a young man in search of his mother after a childhood spent in foster care. Taking the form of a confession, the book is translated from the French by JC Sutcliffe. Expect gritty humour, bizarre characters and a tale both tender and violent.

FOR THE BLISS AND TORMENT OF ORDINARY LIFE AND LOVE Ordinary People by Diana Evans (Doubleday Canada, 336 pages, June 19) Published to effusive reviews in Britain this spring, Ordinary People, the third novel by Diana Evans (26a, The Wonder), is a story of marital angst in the face of parenthood and approaching midlife. With their relationships now settled into routine domesticity, the spouses in this story lament the agony of ordinary life that lies beyond the first blush of new romance.

FOR A KAFKAESQUE STORY OF TURBULENT TIMES The Traitor's Niche by Ismail Kadare (Counterpoint, 208 pages, June 22) Forty years after its original publication in Albanian, Man Booker International Prize-winner Ismail Kadare's book is finding an enthusiastic readership in English. Translated by John Hodgson, this allegorical novel of tyranny and rebellion is set in the 19th-century Ottoman Empire, but its story of subordination to the state is timeless. "Kafka on a grander political scale," the London Sunday Times said.

FOR A STORY OF MARRIAGE, FAITHFULNESS AND FAITH The Paper Lovers by Gerard Woodward (Picador, 320 pages, July 12) The story of two married couples and one affair, Gerard Woodward examines the crisis of identity that might follow a betrayal.

Through the transgressions the novel explores, Woodward (an acclaimed author of novels, short fiction and poetry) asks what it means for our identities to be faithful - to yourself, your spouse, your god - and what it means to have deceived.

FOR LIFE ON THE AMERICAN FRONTIER My Name Is a Knife by Alix Hawley (Vintage Canada, 400 pages, July 17) Dubbed "Cormac McCarthy's young heiress" by Joyce Carol Oates, Alix Hawley won the Amazon Canada First Novel Award for her debut, All True Not a Lie in It. In her sophomore novel, Hawley returns to fabled frontiersman Daniel Boone, this time to tell the end of his story, in which Boone must choose between his white and Shawnee families, and decide whether to kill or be killed in the fighting he knows must eventually follow.

FOR SOME BELLY LAUGHS AND A KNOWING WINK AT OUR PREOCCUPATION WITH FAME Hits & Misses by Simon Rich (Little, Brown & Co., 240 pages, July 24) Simon Rich is really funny. A past writer for Saturday Night Live, The Simpsons and Pixar, Rich is also the creator and showrunner of Man Seeking Woman and Miracle Workers, both of which are based on his previous books. His latest is a collection of laugh-out-loud stories with our obsession with fame and fortune at their heart. The stories are inspired by the author's experiences in Hollywood.

FOR A FETED DEBUT ABOUT THE FINE LINE BETWEEN FAITH AND FANATICISM The Incendiaries by R.O. Kwon (Riverhead Books, 224 pages, July 31) A coming-of-age story that explores the lines between faith and fanaticism, passion and violence, R.O. Kwon's debut has received two thumbs up from writers including Lauren Groff and Jenny Offil. While mourning the death of her mother, a young Korean American woman gets drawn into domestic terrorism by a cult tied to North Korea. Advance reviews have called it "dazzling." FOR AN IMMIGRANT-IN-AMERICA STORY ABOUT STICKING OUT WHILE TRYING TO FIT IN Immigrant, Montana by Amitava Kumar (Penguin Canada, 320 pages, July 31) In the vein of Teju Cole and W.G. Sebald, and with advance praise from Cole, Hanif Kureishi, Viet Thanh Nguyen and others, Immigrant, Montana is a story of cultural misunderstanding and love, from the perspective of a young new immigrant to the United States from India, dubbed AK or AK-47 by his new American friends. This promises to be a moving story of a young man trying to fit in across a cultural divide.

FOR AN UNPUTDOWNABLE BOOK YOU MAY NOT WANT TO READ AFTER DARK Foe by Iain Reid (Simon & Schuster Canada, 272 pages, Aug. 7) Iain Reid's first two book were memoirs - about his parents' hobby farm and his gran, respectively. But having lulled his readers into a sense of comfortable security, Reid performed a plot twist with his own career. His third book, I'm Thinking of Ending Things, was a scare-your-pants-off thriller. Expect more of the latter with Foe, a page-turner about space and confinement, about familiarity and the unknown, and about ... well, you'll have to read it and see.

FOR A HAUNTING STORY ABOUT THE GHOSTS OF MEMORY The Saturday Night Ghost Club by Craig Davidson (Knopf Canada, 272 pages, Aug. 14) Canada Reads-nominated for his non-fiction, and with a deftness for the dark and creepy in his horror (published pseudonymously as Nick Cutter), Craig Davidson is back with his first literary fiction since his Giller-nominated, bestselling Cataract City. Davidson returns to magical, seedy, slightly haunted Niagara Falls (a.k.a. Cataract City) for a story about childhood adventures, the human spirit and the haunting mutability of memory.

FOR A SEND-UP OF HIGH SOCIETY AND SOME ARMCHAIR TRAVEL TO FRANCE French Exit by Patrick deWitt (House of Anansi, 248 pages, Aug. 14) For his fourth novel, Patrick deWitt focuses his funny on Paris in a tragedy of manners and a riotous send-up of high society. Readers can expect the unexpected as the author of Ablutions, The Sisters Brothers and the underrated and hilarious Undermajordomo Minor introduces an Upper East Side widow, her son and her aging cat - who may harbour the spirit of her dead husband - and sets them on a voyage for a new life in the City of Light.

FOR THE FINAL WORDS OF A BELOVED CANADIAN STORYTELLER Starlight by Richard Wagamese (McClelland & Stewart, 256 pages, Aug. 14) Unfinished at the time of the author's death in 2017, Starlight is the final novel from Richard Wagamese, the bestselling author of Indian Horse and Medicine Walk. An abused woman on the run finds refuge on a farm owned by an Indigenous man with wounds of his own in a story about compassion and the land's ability to heal. Starlight promises to be a moving read for Wagamese fans old and new.

FOR SOMETHING SMALL-TOWN AND STRANGE Heartbreaker by Claudia Dey (HarperAvenue, 288 pages, Aug. 21) Playwright (and design label Horses Atelier co-owner) Claudia Dey makes her long-awaited return to fiction (her only novel, Stunt, was published in 2008) with Heartbreaker, a coming-of-age story that is magical, sinister and strange. Seventeen years after falling from a stolen car into a remote northern town, Billie Jean Fontaine goes missing. "I want Van Halen to write the soundtrack and the Coen brothers to make the movie," Leslie Feist says.

FOR THE POWER OF FEMALE CONVERSATION Women Talking by Miriam Toews (Knopf Canada, 240 pages, Aug. 21) From Miriam Toews, the beloved author of devastatingly sad yet heart-warmingly witty modern Canadian classics including A Complicated Kindness and All My Puny Sorrows, comes a timely, necessary new novel. Written as an imagined response to a true event, Women Talking, tells the story of a group of women gathered in secret to decide whether to stay or leave after being drugged and assaulted by men in their remote Mennonite community.

FOR AN EROTIC AWAKENING AND AN EX'S UNEXPECTED RETURN Queen Solomon by Tamara Faith Berger (Coach House Books, 160 pages, Sept. 1) Tamara Faith Berger's Maidenhead provided a smart, literary alternative to Fifty Shades of Grey and its copycats back in 2012. In Queen Solomon, Berger - who wrote porn stories for a living before publishing her first book in 1999 - explores the erotic awakening and mental disintegration of an intense young man. Teenaged Barbra terrifies and captivates the young narrator in equal measure. When things go wrong, Barbra leaves, but unexpectedly turns up seven years later to once again mess with the young man's mind.


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