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At the Water's Edge (Doubleday Canada) by Sara Gruen, $32.
Readers of Water for Elephants have been eagerly anticipating Sara Gruen's next book, and it's finally here! This story focuses on Maddie and her husband, Ellis's, hunt to find the Loch Ness monster in hopes of getting themselves back in Ellis's father's good graces after an embarrassing scene on New Year's Eve. While Ellis spends much of his time hunting Nessie with his friend Hank, Maddie searches for answers in her own life.
Set during the Second World War, this book is full of the wonders of friendship, the beauty of love and the mystery of monsters—both literal and figurative.
The Night Stages (McClelland & Stewart) by Jane Urquhart, $33.
It's not that often a novel as compelling as this one comes along. The story revolves around Tam, who's stuck in a Newfoundland airport, waiting for the fog to clear and thinking about the lover she's leaving behind in Ireland. As she waits, the narrative takes you back to years past, tracing its way through her life, her lover's life and that of his brother. Meanwhile, her gaze on an airport mural takes you into the life of the painter and his journey to create this piece of art about departure and arrival.
Jane Urquhart begins these small but profound stories as disparate narratives, then slowly draws them together into an epic tale. The stories in themselves are captivating, but it's Urquhart's simply stunning voice that makes this book so wonderful. She'll draw you into each poignant and precious moment with her well-chosen words, and you'll want to read this book slowly, savouring each sentence.
The Mountain Story (Knopf Canada) by Lori Lansens, $32.
If you're looking for adventure, The Mountain Story has it. The survivalist tale begins in a somewhat unusual way: with Wolf Truly travelling to the top of a mountain with the intent to jump to his death. But three women he meets, who are lost on the mountain, unexpectedly save his life. As he tries to help them, all four people become stranded on the freezing mountaintop—with no food, no water and no way down.
The story is told by Wolf years later as a confessional to his son, and it's not hard to see the beautiful life lessons taught by the mountain—how we find our way and learn to overcome—but the vivid beauty and terror of the wilderness landscape are perhaps even more profound than the mountain's metaphors. Lori Lansens draws from her experience of living in California's backcountry and uses a real mountain that's entrapped many a visitor as her inspiration for this gripping novel.
Daydreams of Angels (HarperCollins) by Heather O'Neill, $23.
Lovers of Heather O'Neill's distinctive writing voice and imaginative descriptions will be thrilled with this book, her first collection of short stories, told like those passed on from a grandparent to a grandchild. Cults, clones and cherubs can all be found in these narratives, which offer twists on fairy-tale-like stories and Bible parables.
O'Neill's charming and childlike perspective will guide you through these disparate tales that offer a welcome departure from reality. Her fanciful creations might just make you feel like a kid again.
The Evening Chorus (HarperCollins) by Helen Humphreys, $29.
Another beautiful book from Helen Humphreys, The Evening Chorus begins with an English officer, James Hunter, living in a German prisoner-of-war camp during the Second World War. Perhaps all that's keeping him going is focusing his attention on some nearby birds, but his keen interest in them is also getting him in trouble and threatening his safety with the camp's ever-suspicious Kommandant. Running parallel to his story is that of his wife back home, who's trying to get through the war in her own way—with another man.
Humphreys has a way of elegantly juxtaposing human experience and tragedy with the beauty of the natural world; it's almost poetic. Her subtle touch makes the story all the more enjoyable, and you'll find yourself absorbed not only in the characters but also in the birds and their song.
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