Silence by Shusaku Endo

silence

Originally published in 1966, then in translation in 1969, this book has gained recent popularity due to the release of the feature film of the same name.  This fictional account of the life of a Jesuit priest in 1640’s Japan is a story that depicts the battle between religious faith and doubt.  The “silence” of the title refers to God’s presumed silence to the suffering of the protagonist and those that by association are persecuted by Japanese authorities.  The conflict the protagonist faces is both internal and external.  The underlying irony of this story is twofold with the protagonist viewing his mission in Japan at first as truly righteous.  He does this even in the face of his former mentor and the Japanese authorities pointing out that he is an outsider presuming that he knows what is best for the Japanese by preaching about salvation and in doing so leading those that follow to persecution and death.  The other irony which is not overtly mentioned is that although the priest is condemning the Japanese for their persecution of Christians in Japan at the same time in Christian Europe heretics were being persecuted for not adhering to what was thought as the right form of Christianity.  Although this book is set in Medieval Japan it is not an overly historic work.  One learns more about this time period by reading Clavell’s Shogun in comparison; however this is not the point of the novel.  It is instead an internal religious discussion by the writer for readers to understand what it means to worship and have beliefs that are not shared by the majority and considered intrinsically foreign.  Silence by Shusaku Endo forces readers to confront how they may have given up their beliefs or ideals in order to conform and survive and get ahead in society. (Submitted by Shane)

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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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Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

big-little-liesI feel like I’m a bit late to the party with this popular book, but it’s amazing! It’s one where you know something really bad has happened, but not to whom or who did it, so there’s a sense of foreboding throughout.  It follows 3 mothers whose children have just entered Kindergarten and unravels the tragic events at a school function. There’s suspense, sadness, friendship, and a surprising amount of humour. It particularly resonated with me, as my child entered Kindergarten this fall – I hope nothing so dramatic happens to me! I can’t wait to see the HBO series and see how Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman tackle the characters of Madeline and Celeste. (Submitted by Gayle)

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The Woefield Poultry Collective by Susan Juby

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What a delightful cast of characters. The author did a wonderful job of giving each a unique voice and I thoroughly enjoyed how she managed to provide different points of view on the same set of events without it becoming tiring. A great read with laugh-out loud moments! (Submitted by J. Wilson)

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The Dead Zone by Stephen King

deadzoneI came across Stephen King’s 1979 book The Dead Zone by happy accident when I had nothing to read. Though I have read many King novels, I somehow hadn’t heard of this one before, and the story piqued my interest: young Johnny Smith awakens from a five year long coma to find the world a changed place. His beloved fiancée has moved on to another man and now has two children; his ultra-religious mother has lost her mind; and his body needs extensive surgical repair if he ever wants to walk again. Johnny’s once promising teaching career is in question, and on top of all of this, he seems to have developed a supernatural power of precognition in connection with his brain injury. This ability is a blessing and a curse to Johnny: he is able to help loved ones avoid misfortune, but he also sees terrifying flashes into the depraved mind of an active serial killer who has been terrifying the New England area for years. Johnny’s unwanted new ability does not go unnoticed: it attracts the vulture-like attention of reporters and scammers looking to make a quick buck. While he mourns the loss of his old life and longs for solitude in rural Maine, the growing number of women falling victim to the serial killer and the strengthening connection force Johnny to use his new power for good. Johnny has another connection to a force even more sinister than the killer: a local politician with the darkest of intentions. I couldn’t put this book down. Though I had never heard of it before, it will remain one of my favorite Stephen King books from here on out. It was thrilling as well as deeply moving. I’d definitely recommend this on a chilly fall weekend! (Submitted by Mandi)

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