Woman is No Man by Etaf Rum

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In Etaf Rum’s debut novel, A Woman is No Man, we are introduced to three generations of Palestinian-American women who are all tied down to tradition and culture. Isra is the girl from Palestine who gets married off to an American and shuttled away to Brooklyn, New York. There, she battles her dreams of a better life in America, one where women are valued and not subservient to their husbands. But her new mother-in-law Fareeda is just as traditional as her own mother, pressuring her to have a son and disregarding the daughters that Isra eventually bears, including the first born, Deya. But perhaps it is Deya who will finally manage to find that balance between being Arab and American and breaks free from the tight constraints of a patriarchal mindset, through the use of books and the discovery of secrets long kept hidden…

This was an enthralling read that had me hooked from the very first chapter. Etaf Rum seamlessly invites us into a world we may or may not be familiar with. This world will horrify you and sadden you, but ultimately it will provide you with hope that a better world may be on its way. Jumping between timelines and characters, Woman is No Man depicts the voices of women who have been silenced for far too long. (Submitted by Alan)

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Winners Take All by Anand Giridharadas

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I loved “Winners Take All” by Anand Giridharadas – eye-opening and paradigm-shifting look at a different kind of world. (Submitted by Jenny)

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Emergency Contact by Mary H. K. Choi

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Penny is angry with her mom, Celeste. She’s going away to college to be a writer. Sam is stuck. He is in a low paying job as a baker/barista, his ex-girlfriend is pregnant, he has no money, and he wants to be a film director. Their paths collide in the centre of town and they become each other’s Emergency Contact. Great writing from 2 points of view, believable scenarios. (Submitted by Sharleen)

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Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

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Life After Life – Does the course of your life depend on fate or do you have control based on the choices you make?  Ursula Todd is born on a snowy winter day in 1910 .. and then dies before she can take a breath.  Or does she? The very same day, she is born, the doctor arrives in time, and Ursula lives.  We follow Ursula’s childhood, adolescence, and adulthood as Kate Atkinson weaves in key historical events from the early to mid 20th century – World War I, the Spanish influenza epidemic, and then World War II, both in London during the Blitz and Germany in the ‘30s and ‘40s.  We witness Ursula’s birth and death over and over again — in each timeline she makes different decisions that lead to wildly different life paths. Or is it fate acting upon her?  A highly enjoyable read for fans of British historical fiction and alternative histories. The audiobook, read by Fenella Woolgar, brings the characters to life. (Submitted by Beth)

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Annabel by Kathleen Winter

annabelThis book was hauntingly beautiful. It tells the story of a child, born in a remote Labradorean town in 1968, who is not quite male and not quite female. Winter’s storytelling is luminous and poignant as we grow up alongside Wayne (Annabel) in the cold, Canadian climate, privy to one family’s secrets. I’m still reeling from this story and it’s been years since I read it–time for a re-read! (Submitted by Meghan)

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Force of Nature by Jane Harper

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Jane Harper’s first book, The Dry, took us into the punishingly hot Australian outback. Now, Detective Aaron Falk and his new partner, Carmen, are sent into the heavy, close, jungle-like Giralang Mountain Ranges.

Alice Russell, one of five women on a corporate team-building trail retreat, has disappeared. Tensions between the returning survivors are high, and Aaron and Carmen must get to the bottom of what happened – as well as hope to find Alice in a race against time and nature.

I can’t convey how excellent Harper is at creating tension and atmosphere, and I can’t convey how masterfully she balances the mystery with a sense of simmering tension. I should also mention that each of her mysteries is impressively real. The situation and characters (and detectives!) all feel natural and organic – nothing far-fetched to be found.

Engaging, human mystery with a real sense of pervasive danger set against nature’s stunning (and vicious) backdrop – this should be on your reading list. (Submitted by Veronica)

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The Home for Unwanted Girls by Joanna Goodman

homeforunwantedgirlsI just finished reading The Home for Unwanted Girls by Joanna Goodman for my book club and it was a real page-turner. It’s a fictitious novel based on actual events that occurred in the early 1950’s in Quebec. At the time, many babies born out of wedlock were handed over to orphanages run by Catholic nuns. The province’s Premier of the time, Duplessis signed an order-in-council to turn orphanages into hospitals, thus allowing them to collect federal subsidies. As a result, many of the children in the orphanages were told that they were now mentally deficient, often kept drugged, and made to provide labour in support of the institutions. The children were not schooled, nor were they made available for adoption.

This story follows a 15 year old who finds herself pregnant as well as the story of the child she gives up to one of these orphanages turned hospitals. Mother and daughter never lose hope of reuniting while facing many challenges in their respective lives.

The novel was very well written and I believe it depicted the issues surrounding the times accurately. While it was sometimes difficult to read, it was also eye-opening and engaging. One of the few novels where I’ve shed tears while reading. I highly recommend it. (Submitted by Seline)

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