It’s not unusual for several Hamilton authors to publish in the same season. This city is burgeoning with talent, both homegrown and come-from-away (“away” usually being Toronto). This spring season, however, seems more remarkable than usual for our city, with many Hamilton authors receiving plenty of attention and positive reviews. I thought we’d let you know about a small sampling of what’s on bookstore shelves (yes, shelves. Support your local bookstore!).
All quotations courtesy of the fine folks at the authors’ respective publishing houses.
GARY BARWIN – NOTHING THE SAME, EVERYTHING HAUNTED (THE BALLAD OF MOTL THE COWBOY)
NOTHING THE SAME, EVERYTHING HAUNTED BY GARY BARWIN
“A middle-aged Jewish man who fantasizes about being a cowboy goes on an eccentric quest across Europe after the 1941 Nazi invasion of Lithuania in this wild and witty yet heartrending novel from the bestselling author of Yiddish for Pirates, shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize.”
Barwin’s last novel, the aforementioned Pirates, won him the Leacock Medal for Humour. Fun fact: Gary was McMaster’s Writer-in-Residence not that long ago. Nothing the Same, Everything Haunted is one of the books I haven’t read yet, but it’s next up in my book pile. Yes, I have a book pile.
KRISTA FOSS – HALF LIFE (MCCLELLAND & STEWART)
HALF LIFE BY KRISTA FOSS
“A raw, absorbing, tender, and witty novel about a woman's long-overdue reckoning with memory, truth, and the multiverse of familial love… Told with dazzling insight, intelligence, and compassion, Half Life is a beautifully rendered story about family truths and the profound human need to be believed.”
Krista is a former journalist and teacher. Her last novel, Smoke River, was one of my favourite Hamiltonian novels of all time (still is!). Half Life is about wildly different people who will feel familiar; it’s a revealing and relevant depiction of how families can both fracture and hold together, somehow at the same time.
AMANDA LEDUC – THE CENTAUR’S WIFE (RANDOM HOUSE CANADA)
THE CENTAUR'S WIFE BY AMANDA LEDUC
“Amanda Leduc's brilliant new novel, woven with fairy tales of her own devising and replete with both catastrophe and magic, is a vision of what happens when we ignore the natural world and the darker parts of our own natures… At times devastating, but ultimately redemptive, Amanda Leduc's fable for our uncertain times reminds us that the most important things in life aren't things at all, but rather the people we want by our side at the end of the world.”
Amanda’s last book was the non-fiction Disfigured: On Fairy Tales, Disability and Making Space. Her new novel, The Centaur's Wife, can be heavy (in theme and content) but it’s also wondrous, filled with insightful world-building and fairy tales.
PASHA MALLA – KILL THE MALL (KNOPF CANADA)
KILL THE MALL BY PASHA MALLA
“Douglas Adams meets David Lynch in this witty yet horror-tinged fable about one of North America's scariest inventions--the local mall…. Pasha Malla's creative genius shines in this madcap work of horror-fantasy--a cutting critique of consumer culture as embodied in the fading local mall.”
Oh, and what happens in that mall? An attack of sentient ponytails. A swimming pool full of ghosts. A pony named Gary. Pasha’s latest, Kill the Mall, is wildly imaginative with a solidly hilarious comedic voice. Malla says he had a lot of fun writing it and it shows, even when it becomes dark and oddly disturbing.
JOE OLLMANN – FICTIONAL FATHER (DRAWN & QUARTERLY)
FICTIONAL FATHER BY JOE OLLMANN
“Caleb is a middle-aged painter with a non-starter career and a checkered past. He also happens to be the only child of one of the world’s most famous cartoonists, Jimmi Wyatt. Known for the internationally beloved father and son comic Sonny Side Up, Jimmi made millions drawing saccharine family stories while neglecting his own son… Now sober, Caleb is haunted by his wasted past and struggling to take responsibility for his present before it’s too late… Are we forever doomed to make the same mistakes our parents did?”
Due in May, I trust that Fictional Father, much like Ollmann’s previous graphic novels, the art will be delightful and the storytelling even more so. His last work, The Abominable Mr. Seabrook, was an utterly engrossing graphic bio of a notoriously yet mostly forgotten character in the literary world.
BRENT VAN STAALDUINEN – NOTHING BUT LIFE (DUNDURN PRESS)
NOTHING BUT LIFE BY BRENT VAN STAALDUINEN
“When Dills hurts a new classmate, it comes out in court that he was in the Windsor High library when the shooter came in. But he won’t talk about what he saw, what he still sees whenever he closes his eyes. He can’t. He definitely can’t tell anyone that the Windsor Shooter is his stepfather, Jesse, that Jesse can speak into his mind from hundreds of kilometres away, and that Dills still loves him even though he committed an unspeakable crime.”
It sounds pretty intense, but Brent fills Nothing But Life with pathos and sweetness as well. This is Brent’s second novel in less than half a year - Boy was released in October 2020, and it was also excellent. Keep your eyes open for something in 2022 as well!