(Descriptions mostly come from Amazon)

Canada

Rachel Cusk – Outline (short list for the Giller Prize)

outlineA novel in ten conversations, cialis 40mg Outline follows a novelist teaching creative writing during an oppressively hot summer in Athens. She leads her students in storytelling, more about meets other writers for dinner, and swims in the Ionian Sea with a man she met on the plane. The people she encounters speak volubly about themselves. And through these disclosures, a portrait of the narrator is drawn by contrast, a portrait of a woman learning to face a great loss.

One of the most daringly original and entertaining pieces of fiction I’ve ever read” Observer “Mesmerising” New Yorker “Brilliant…absorbing, thought-provoking” Evening Standard “Rachel Cusk breaks all the rules… Outline captivates” Independent “A lethally intelligent novel” New York Times Book Review

Tasneem Jamal – Where the Air is Sweet

where the air is sweetAn epic saga that charts three generations of an Indian family in Uganda.  In 1972, dictator Idi Amin expelled 80,000 South Asians from Uganda. Though many had lived in East Africa for generations, they were given ninety days to flee as their country descended into a surreal vortex of chaos and murder.

Spanning the years between 1921 and 1975, Where the Air Is Sweet tells the story of Raju, a young Indian man drawn to Africa by the human impulse to seek a better life, and the two generations that follow him and carve a niche for themselves in a racially stratified colonial and post-colonial society. This is the story of a family: their loves, their griefs and their sudden expulsion by one of the world’s most terrifying tyrants.

Beautifully written and brimming with intelligence. A wonderful debut.” —Katrina Onstad, author of the Giller Prize nominee Everybody Has Everything

United States

Jennine Cap Crucet – Make Your Home Among Strangers

Make-Your-Home-Among-StrangersWhen Lizet-the daughter of Cuban immigrants and the first in her family to graduate from high school-secretly applies and is accepted to an ultra-elite college, her parents are furious at her decision to leave Miami. Just weeks before she’s set to start school, her parents divorce and her father sells her childhood home, leaving Lizet, her mother, and Leidy-Lizet’s older sister, a brand-new single mom-without a steady income and scrambling for a place to live. Pulled between life at college and the needs of those she loves, Lizet is faced with difficult decisions that will change her life forever.   Urgent and mordantly funny, Make Your Home Among Strangers tells the moving story of a young woman torn between generational, cultural, and political forces; it’s the new story of what it means to be American today.

Few [debut novels] are as furious, funny, or thorny as this one… Crucet captures the vernacular of Lizet’s world at home and the unbearable alienation in her campus life with a realness that’s hard to forget.” ?Entertainment Weekly.  “Superb… Crucet expertly summons the wrenching disconnect between immigrant parents and their offspring… With this personal coming-of-age novel, Crucet offers us a piercing window into what it means to grow up.” ?Miami Herald.  “Sharply funny” ?New York Times

 Lauren Groff – Fates and Furies (National Book Award Finalist)

fates and furiesEvery story has two sides. Every relationship has two perspectives. And sometimes, it turns out, the key to a great marriage is not its truths but its secrets. At the core of this rich, expansive, layered novel, Lauren Groff presents the story of one such marriage over the course of twenty-four years.

At age twenty-two, Lotto and Mathilde are tall, glamorous, madly in love, and destined for greatness. A decade later, their marriage is still the envy of their friends, but with an electric thrill we understand that things are even more complicated and remarkable than they have seemed. With stunning revelations and multiple threads, and in prose that is vibrantly alive and original, Groff delivers a deeply satisfying novel about love, art, creativity, and power that is unlike anything that has come before it. Profound, surprising, propulsive, and emotionally riveting, it stirs both the mind and the heart.

The Florida author’s third novel is billed as her most ambitious yet, filled with sex, rage and revenge.” —The Wall Street Journal.  “Thrillingly good—precise, lyrical, rich, both worldly and epically transfiguring… Groff is an original writer, whose books are daringly nonconformist… The prose is not only beautiful and vigorously alert; it insists on its own heroic registration, and lifts this story of a modern marriage out of the mundane.” —James Wood, The New Yorker

Sophie McManus – The Unfortunates

the unfortunatesThis extraordinary debut novel by Sophie McManus is a contemporary American tragedy of breathtaking scope: a dramatic story of pharmaceutical drug trials and Wall Street corruption; of pride and prejudice; of paranoia and office politics; of inheritance, influence, class, and power.

Cecilia Somner’s fate hangs in the balance. A larger-than-life heiress to a robber baron’s fortune, once known for her cruel wit as much as for her tremendous generosity, CeCe is now in opulent decline. Afflicted with a rare disease and touched by mortality for the first time, her gilded, bygone values collide with an unforgiving present. Along with her troubled son, George, and his outsider wife, Iris, CeCe must face the Somners’ dark legacy and the corrupting nature of wealth. As the Somner family struggles to find a solution to its troubles, the secrets and lies between CeCe, George, and Iris grow entangled. CeCe’s world topples, culminating in a crime as unforgettable as it is unexpected.  While no riches can put things right for the unfortunate Somners, when all is lost, they learn what life beyond the long, shimmering shadow cast by the Somner dynasty may become. The Unfortunates, hilarious and heartbreaking by turns, is most of all a meditation on love: as delusional obsession, as transformation, and ultimately as a coming to grace.

Viet Thanh Nguyen – The Sympathizer

the-sympathizer-new-268x400A profound, startling, and beautifully crafted debut novel, The Sympathizer is the story of a man of two minds, someone whose political beliefs clash with his individual loyalties.
It is April 1975, and Saigon is in chaos. At his villa, a general of the South Vietnamese army is drinking whiskey and, with the help of his trusted captain, drawing up a list of those who will be given passage aboard the last flights out of the country. The general and his compatriots start a new life in Los Angeles, unaware that one among their number, the captain, is secretly observing and reporting on the group to a higher-up in the Viet Cong. The Sympathizer is the story of this captain: a man brought up by an absent French father and a poor Vietnamese mother, a man who went to university in America, but returned to Vietnam to fight for the Communist cause. A gripping spy novel, an astute exploration of extreme politics, and a moving love story, The Sympathizer explores a life between two worlds and examines the legacy of the Vietnam War in literature, film, and the wars we fight today.

Magisterial. A disturbing, fascinating and darkly comic take on the fall of Saigon and its aftermath, and a powerful examination of guilt and betrayal. “The Sympathizer” is destined to become a classic and redefine the way we think about the Vietnam War and what it means to win and to lose.”–T.C. Boyle“The Sympathizer” is a remarkable and brilliant book. By turns harrowing, and cut through by shards of unexpected and telling humor, this novel gives us the conflict in Vietnam, and its aftermath, in a way that is deeply truthful, and vitally important.”–Vincent Lam,

Ha Jin – A Map of Betrayal

a map of betrayalWhen Lilian Shang, born and raised in America, discovers her father’s diary after the death of her parents, she is shocked by the secrets it contains. She knew that her father, Gary, convicted decades ago of being a mole in the CIA, was the most important Chinese spy ever caught. But his diary, an astonishing chronicle of his journey as a Communist intelligence agent, reveals the pain and longing that his double life entailed—and point to a hidden second family that he’d left behind in China. As Lilian follows her father’s trail back into the Chinese provinces, she begins to grasp the extent of his dilemma: he is a man torn between loyalty to his motherland and the love he came to feel for his adopted country. She sees how his sense of duty distorted his life, and as she starts to understand that Gary too had been betrayed, Lilian finds that it is up to her to prevent his tragedy from endangering yet another generation of Shangs.  A stunning portrait of a multinational family and an unflinching inquiry into the meaning of citizenship, patriotism, and home.

 Ha, a former People’s Liberation Army soldier who has spent his adult life as an academic in the U.S., deftly explores the parallels between an immigrant’s experience and an informant’s—the ambivalence, the delusion, the sense of warring loyalties.” —The New Yorker.  “With one foot in China and the other in the United States, Ha Jin is the quintessential Chinese-American writer. . . . In his absorbing new book, A Map of Betrayal, the author offers his most searing portrait yet of divided loyalties.”—Kevin Nance, Chicago Tribune

 Atticus Lish – Preparation for the Next Life

preparation for the next lifeThis extraordinary novel received a rave review in the New York Times, with the reviewer quoting long passages from the text to illustrate his point that the writing style is in itself remarkable: stark, unsentimental, yet incredibly poetic and evocative. The plot is heartbreaking but simple – the romance between a physically and emotionally damaged Iraq war vet and a a half-Han, half Muslim – an ethnic minority in China – illegal Chinese immigrant. The characters are three-dimensional and their story is tragic and compelling. The real story, however, is the theme of cultural, social and economic conflict and disintegration in modern urban America. The little injustices and expression of inhumanity that the characters face at each turn – the seemingly random, gratuitous physical and emotional violence – make their struggles seem at once noble, Inspiring and, perhaps futile. The descriptions of the landscape in which they struggle, give their story an iconic quality – they are themselves, and have no vision of being anything more than that.

Elena Mauli Shapiro – In The Red

in the redWhen Irina–Romanian by birth but brought up by American parents who have never understood her-arrives at college she quickly abandons ordinary student life for an affair with an older, mysterious Romanian man named Andrei. Andrei awakens a powerful sensuality in Irina. And he has money – lots of it. For the first time, Irina feels free. But the longer she stays with Andrei, the more she is certain that she can’t leave, and that may be complicit in Andrei’s work – whatever that “work” might be. Then an unexpected friendship with a young Russian bride opens the door to escape, and also revenge.  A tantalizing, edgy exploration of women and love, power and money-interwoven with potent, unusual, and nervy Romanian fairy tales-In the Red asks what the legacy of love is, and who will be left unscathed.

 In The Red is an absolutely dazzling book, a nuanced and haunting meditation on morality, love, crime, and belonging. In a word, this book is brilliant.”?Emily St. John Mandel

 Zimbabwe

Tendai Huchu – The Hairdresser of Harare

the hairdresser of harareLike very good dark chocolate this is a delicious novel, with a bitter-sweet flavour. Vimbai is a hairdresser, the best in Mrs Khumalo’s salon, and she knows she is the queen on whom they all depend. Her situation is reversed when the good-looking, smooth-talking Dumisani joins them. However, his charm and desire to please slowly erode Vimbai’s rancour and when he needs somewhere to live, Vimbai becomes his landlady. So, when Dumisani needs someone to accompany him to his brother’s wedding to help smooth over a family upset, Vimbai obliges. Startled to find that this smart hairdresser is the scion of one of the wealthiest families in Harare, she is equally surprised by the warmth of their welcome; and it is their subsequent generosity which appears to foster the relationship between the two young people. The ambiguity of this deepening friendship – used or embraced by Dumisani and Vimbai with different futures in mind – collapses in unexpected brutality when secrets and jealousies are exposed. Written with delightful humour and a penetrating eye, The Hairdresser of Harare is a novel that you will find hard to put down.

Non-Fiction

Canada

Ann Walmsey – The Prison Book Club

the prison book clubAn attack in London left Ann Walmsley unable to walk alone down the street, and shook her belief in the fundamental goodness of people. A few years later, when a friend asked her to participate in a bold new venture in a men’s medium security prison, Ann had to weigh her curiosity and desire to be of service against her anxiety and fear.  But she signed on, and for eighteen months went to a remote building at Collins Bay, meeting a group of heavily tattooed book club members without the presence of guards or security cameras. There was no wine and cheese, no plush furnishings. But a book club on the inside proved to be a place to share ideas and regain a sense of humanity.

For the men, the books were rare prized possessions, and the meetings were an oasis of safety and a respite from isolation in an otherwise hostile environment. Having been judged themselves, they were quick to make judgments about the books they read. As they discussed the obstacles the characters faced, they revealed glimpses of their own struggles that were devastating and comic. From The Grapes of Wrath to The Cellist of Sarajevo, Outliers to Infidel, the book discussions became a springboard for frank conversations about loss, anger, redemption, and loneliness.   The Prison Book Club follows six of the book club members, who kept journals at Walmsley’s request and participated in candid one-on-one conversations. Graham the biker, Frank the gunman, Ben and Dread the drug dealers, and the robber duo Gaston and Peter come to life as the author reconciles her knowledge of their crimes with the individuals themselves, and follows their lives as they leave prison. And woven throughout is the determined and compassionate Carol Finlay, working tirelessly to expand her program across Canada and into the United States.  The books changed the men and the men changed Walmsley, allowing her to move beyond her position as a victim. Given the choice, she’d forsake the company of privileged friends and their comfortable book club to make the two-hour drive to Collins Bay.