The Gallery of Lost Species by Nina Berkhout
This is a deeply affecting story set in Ottawa of two sisters growing up in the eighties. I loved the main character, thirteen year old Edith, who has to grow up in the shadow of her troubled older sister Vivienne, along with her emotionally absent mother and ineffectual but loving father.
The sisters' relationship forces us to contemplate the extent to which we are responsible for the actions of another family member and when, for our own health, we should let go. A debut novel for poet Nina Berkhout and one which I highly recommend.
The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant
One of my favourites this year is this story told by Addie, an 85 year old grandmother born in Boston in 1900 to an immigrant family. Addie's feisty, adventurous and tells her story with a wicked sense of humour as she embraces a world her parents can't imagine - college, short skirts, love affairs and careers. Heartfelt and fun.
All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews
If you've read Toews' earlier books - A Complicated Kindness and The Flying Troutmans -you'll know how she can combine almost unbearable sadness with laugh-out-loud humour. Yes, this is a story about sisterhood and suicide, yet ultimately it's about love, compassion and acceptance. Wise, brilliant and beautiful.
Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline
The novelization of the american version of our Canadian 'Home Children' Story. At the turn of
the 20th century it was customary for Child Welfare Agencies to round up orphans in the northeastern part of the States and ship them by train out west where hopefully they would find either new adoptive families or at the very least employment with farm families. As with the Home Children, sometimes it worked out positively but more often than not the lives of these children became worse. We hear the story (mostly lovely) of how one orphan fared through the voice and memory of Vivian, an elderly widow who befriends seventeen year old foster child Molly. Anyone who appreciates good historical fiction will enjoy this novel.
I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes
Normally I don't really gravitate toward thrillers but this winter I made an exception when I became ill with a horrible flu bug. For three blessed days I kept my mind off of how I felt by immersing myself into this well written, clever, fast-paced novel by screenwriter Hayes. What a ride. I thought about the plot for many days afterwards.....