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My October Claire Holden Rothman (Giller-nominated author) Fiction SYNOPSIS: The book follows the lives of the Levesque family in Montreal, three decades after the October Crisis changed the national landscape. In 2001, language and cultural divides still exist in Quebec. Tensions are even evident between friends and family members, like the Levesques. Luc Levesque is a famous Quebec writer and a champion of the separatist movement. His wife Hannah Stern, meanwhile, is the daughter of the special prosecutor who put separatists behind bars after the Crisis. From the day Hannah marries Luc, a deep rift appears between her and her father. Their teenage son Hugo rebels by turning his back on his francophone upbringing, and taking on his grandfather’s Anglo surname. The relationships between husband, wife and son are tested as Hugo researches some of the main players of the October Crisis. The story is inspired by two real-life figures – James Cross, a British diplomat who was kidnapped by the FLQ in 1970, and Jacques Lanctot, Cross’ captor. MY THOUGHTS: Claire Holden Rothman personalizes and humanizes a political crisis. She reminds you that partisan battles play out in neighbourhood homes, just as they do in government buildings.   She ... Read more

BOOKENDS REVIEW: Between Gods: A Memoir

Between Gods: A Memoir Alison Pick Non-fiction ABOUT THE BOOK: When Alison Pick was a teenager, she made a discovery that would change her life. She found out that her paternal grandparents were Jewish. They had escaped Czechoslovakia during the Second World War and avoided being caught up in the anti-Semitism being spread by the Nazis. Not all of her relatives, though, survived the Holocaust. When her grandparents moved to Canada, they hid their Jewish heritage. In Between Gods, Alison talks about unearthing her family’s past. Depression sets in as she researches Judaism and considers conversion, all while she plans a wedding and struggles with mapping out her future. MY THOUGHTS: My favourite memoirs are those that are honest and raw. Last year, Jowita Bydlowska offered that kind of genuineness in Drunk Mom, and this year it’s Alison Pick. She’s blunt and candid when talking about her depression and struggles. The most unbelievable moment in Between Gods is Alison’s description of a miscarriage she had while sitting on a toilet. I’m amazed that she was able to put down such a devastating experience on paper – for all to read. Alison has an incredible story of rearranging her life that ... Read more

BOOKENDS REVIEW: Eric McCormack's Cloud

Cloud Eric McCormack Fiction SYNOPSIS: Visiting Mexico on a business trip, Harry Steen ducks into an old bookshop to escape a rainstorm. As he peruses the shelves, he finds a mysterious book called The Obsidian Cloud. It catches his eye because of the mention of a Scottish village where he once spent a few months training to become a teacher. Harry hasn’t been back to Dundairn since an incident many years ago had him running away as far as possible. As he researches a dark and deadly phenomenon documented in The Obsidian Cloud, Harry is forced to face his demons. MY THOUGHTS: Eric McCormack had me captivated right from the start. His dark and suspenseful writing reminds me of Stephen King, one of my favourite authors. The story keeps moving and changing, so there’s no time for the reader to get bored. McCormack raises ethical questions in Cloud about when the end justifies the means. His scenarios are terrifying, but what makes them so is the realization that they’re not that far-fetched. This kind of book can never have a cadenced ending, because then the mystery would be quashed. It has to leave you wondering, and McCormack does that in ... Read more


Arctic Summer Damon Galgut Fiction SYNOPSIS: In Arctic Summer, Damon Galgut fictionalizes the life of British author E.M. Forster as he struggles with his homosexuality and writing his most successful book, A Passage to India. In 1912, Morgan Forster takes his first trip to India to visit a friend – a man he fell in love with while tutoring him in England. As Morgan discovers a new world, he tries to begin to understand his homosexuality and fit it into his life in a conservative society. Over the next decade, as his life unfolds, Morgan works on the novel that will become his masterpiece. MY THOUGHTS: When you open up Arctic Summer, don’t expect a page-turner with a fast-paced series of events. The story, rather, develops around the main character’s inner struggle – how he slowly learns to accept and express his homosexuality in an intolerant society. There are aspects of Morgan’s life that will be relevant to many readers. While his life seems to stand still, those he loves continue to move forward and further away from him. He ends up falling in love with two men who could never return his feelings in the way he would hope. ... Read more

BOOKENDS REVIEW: Interference by Michelle Berry

Interference Michelle Berry Fiction SYNOPSIS: Interference starts off as a series of short stories that quickly collide into an intertwined tale of judgement and jealousy, perseverance and love. The stories revolve around neighbours in the small town of Parkville whose lives are each as complicated as the next. You never know what secrets someone is keeping behind closed doors.  Every marriage has its problems. Every child or teen has his or her growing pains. Every illness causes emotional distress. All prejudice causes harm. The book spans three seasons of crumbling and building relationships, emotional roller coasters, and many lessons learned. MY THOUGHTS: When I first started reading Interference, I wasn’t convinced that a novel made up (partly) of standalone short stories could flow nicely. I was soon surprised at just how expertly Michelle Berry was able to lace everything together into a fast-paced, suspenseful, and powerful page-turner. She reminds you that no one’s life is perfect, that you shouldn’t be jealous of someone else’s gains because you don’t know what their lives might be missing. Berry also puts an interesting spin on how prejudice can affect a person’s life and the way they act. This is a book I couldn't ... Read more