Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

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While I think you are either a Jodi Picoult fan or you definitely aren’t, I still recommend her latest novel. What draws me to all of her books is the character development and honesty she can relay to make the reader feel like they know the true thoughts and intentions of all the characters.  This novel deals with race issues.  And, I know, there’s a lot out there right now, but I guarantee you, you haven’t read one like this. A competent labour and delivery nurse faces racial prejudices when an extremist couple refuses to allow her to care for their child; nurse gets put in a situation that she is the only medical staff available when the couple’s child is dying.  Queue an unlawful firing and a court case, but the details and reactions are far from cookie cutter plots!  This book challenged my own thoughts about race, and I thought I knew where I stood! (Submitted by Marnie)

This book is available for borrowing in multiple formats; take your pick!

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The Parcel by Anosh Irani

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The Parcel by local author Anosh Irani was a finalist for the Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize and for the Governor General’s Literary Award. I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was one of those books I thought I was going to be trudging through because of the serious subject matter (the main character is a transgender sex worker in Bombay); however, it was really well written and quite the page-turner.  This book has been described as “difficult and moving, surprising and tender.” I finished it over a weekend! (Submitted by Surinder).

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The Queen of Water by Laura Resau

This is the story of Maria Virginia, who was born to a very poor farming family in a tiny Ecuadorian village. While she was still a child (she doesn’t know her real age, but estimates she was around 7), she was “sold” to a family of a dentist and a university professor to care for their baby while they were at work. The family doesn’t pay her, allow her to watch TV or to eat from their plates and all the mother tells her is how stupid, useless and unwanted Virginia is. The father is very kind to her, calling her his daughter, and eventually grows way too fond of her, so Virginia, now in her teen years, sees no other option than to escape and return to her family’s dirty house (we’re talking fleas here and such). However, during her many years with the doctor’s family, Virginia secretly learned to read and studied hard to catch up. So even though she never went to school, she was able to graduate shortly after she was given the chance and entered one of the most prestigious universities, disguising the fact that she is a longa (a native Indian). The truth come out when she enters a contest and becomes The Queen of the Water. (Submitted by Monika).

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Bone & Bread by Saleema Nawaz

Reading books set in Montreal always fill me with nostalgia, doubly so for the deep sensory memories evoked by the fact the sisters of this novel grow up over their father’s bagel shop in Mile End. Beena and Sadhana are closely linked together by tragedy as well as family bonds. In the wake of her sister’s untimely death, Beena must grapple with their past. Thoroughly engaging, and not just because of the thought of bagels. A Canada Reads 2016 pick. (Submitted by Meghan W).

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The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

The God of Small Things is a remarkable debut novel from Arundhati Roy, an Indian author who won the Man Booker Prize for this very work. This book is a story of a family caught in the middle of social and political change. More specifically, the story follows two estranged twins who are recalling a childhood incident that tore their family apart and changed their lives forever. The narrative jumps back and forth between present (1993) and past (1969), which helps build a sense of suspense, tragedy and dread. The language is beautiful – sometimes I had to stop just to enjoy the poetry of a paragraph. The characters are complicated and well-drawn, which for me is a must for any family drama. There are also many historical details that give an interesting perspective on India’s complicated recent past. Highly recommended.  (Submitted by Naomi.)

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Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese

Indian Horse, by Richard Wagamese is a beautiful, captivating story of a broken Ojibway man, Saul Indian Horse. He faces the atrocities he endured at residential school as well as the racism and abuse he experienced as he tried to build a life in Northern Ontario in the 1960s. The story starts as Saul has entered an alcohol treatment centre as a grown man and is forced to face his past in order to move forward.

The portrayal of the sexual, cultural and physical abuse the Canadian residential school system inflicted on Saul is hard to read but with it comes understanding. Through the heartbreaking story, starting with Saul’s early life with his family living a traditional life in the Northern Ontario bush until being captured and taken to residential school, Saul perseveres and finds hope when he is introduced to hockey and discovers his passion and exceptional talent.

This 2013 Canada Reads nominee story is an important story about courage and healing and I would highly recommend this book to anyone from teens onward. (Submitted by Michelle).

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Angel Wing Splash Pattern by Richard Van Camp

Richard Van Camp’s Angel Wing Splash Pattern is an unforgettable collection of breathtaking, beautiful, hilarious and heartbreaking short stories set in and among the Dogrib and Dene peoples in the wild and harsh remote towns of Northwest Territories. Though each story is vastly different, from a wistful apology letter to an old love, to driving as fast as possible down a notorious stretch of haunted highway, to an elderly medicine man’s final thoughts while people watching in the West Edmonton Mall, each story complements another in a skilfully woven, extremely moving portrait of a world many of us never get to see: that of the rural reservation.

Van Camp, a Dogrib writer who has lived and taught in Vancouver, chooses words carefully to reflect an overall theme of forgiveness, love, and redemption. Each story is strong and powerful enough to stand alone; there is not a weak spot in the book. This is in the running for my favorite book ever, and definitely garners many rereads. The language has a magic to it that is even more powerful when read aloud (as can be seen when searching the first story in the book, “Mermaids,” narrated by Cree actor Ben Cardinal and produced as a radio drama by the CBC). (Submitted by Mandi).

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