Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Giller Shortlist: Immigrant City by David Bezmozgis

November 8, 2019

This is the first time I’ve read a book by David Bezmozgis. Marcie, on the other hand, has read several. Did this have any effect on the way we reacted to the book?


Here is an excerpt from Marcie’s review, which can be read in full at Buried in Print


Along the way, I’ve missed only one of David Bezmozgis’ books. The last novel of his I read was The Free World and, reading through the quotations I saved from that reading, I was struck by how many older passages resonate with this new collection.

Here is one which strikes me today because I’ve been thinking about how we move through patterns in the ways we relate to people and how we yearn to connect. About how many challenges to that desire exist. About the additional challenge when one must navigate that challenge while building a new home somewhere that used to be just ‘elsewhere’.

“The thrill was in saying the words and having someone say them back. The conversation was always the same anyway. You repeated at twenty-six what you’d said at sixteen. And, if you were lucky, you got to repeat it again at fifty-six and ninety-six. To see yourself through admiring eyes, to tell a woman what you wanted – what could be better? How could you tire of that? Emigration had already spoiled too many pleasures and hadn’t granted many new ones in return.”

You can spot a shift in focus between these two works immediately with the last sentence about ‘emigration’ and the title of this year’s Giller-nominated stories, Immigrant City. The former emphasizes the process of leaving one’s country to settle in a new country and the latter emphasizes the process of resettling in a new country having left another country behind. But of course these states are intertwined.


Here is an excerpt from Naomi’s review, which can be read in full at Consumed by Ink.


Although David Bezmozgis has been on the Giller list before (with Free World in 2011 and The Betrayers in 2014), this is the first of his books I’ve read. And the only short story collection on the shortlist this year.

Not only did I find his writing style engaging, it was my first experience reading about the Latvian Jewish community. David Bezmozgis himself was born in Riga, Latvia.

The title story, Immigrant City, was probably my favourite. I could connect to the narrator who is the father of three young daughters – one of which loves to go with him everywhere. He doesn’t hesitate to take her across the city of Toronto on the subway to find a used door to match his car. “Didn’t every kind of flotsam wash up on the blasted shores of the Internet, including a black 2012 Toyota Highlander front passenger-side door? Indeed, there was one, offered for sale by Mohamed Abdi Mohamed of Rexdale.”

I love the image of the father and daughter riding home again on the subway; one carrying a car door and one wearing a hijab (given to the daughter by Mohamed’s wife).

In an immigrant city, a city of innumerable struggles and ambitions, a white man with a car door and a daughter wearing a blue hijab attract less attention than you might expect.


Interested in more? You can find the Shadow Giller reading schedule here.


We’d love to hear your thoughts on Immigrant City. Or any other bookish thing you’d like to say! Do you read short stories? How do you feel about short story collections competing against novels for literary prizes? 



Scotiabank Giller Prize Shortlist 2019

October 3, 2019

Originally posted on Consumed by Ink…

Consumed by Ink

The Giller Prize shortlist is out! The Shadow Jury will be reading and reviewing these books over the next 6 weeks, and will be choosing a shadow winner a few days before the official Giller Prize announcement on November 18th.

Immigrant City by David Bezmozgis, published by HarperCollins

Jury’s Thoughts:Bezmozgis has reimagined immigrant lives not simply as marked by displacement and discontinuity, but of immigration as a shared and binding experience...”

My Thoughts: I hope these stories are good enough to ease my disappointment that Late Breaking is not on this list.

Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward Gun Club by Megan Gail Coles, published by House of Anansi Press

Jury’s Thoughts: “...this is not your traditional Newfoundland novel of social isolation.”

My Thoughts: I loved Coles’ short story collection Eating Habits of the Chronically Lonesome, so I have high hopes…

View original post 293 more words

Scotiabank Giller Prize 2019: Longlist

September 11, 2019

Originally posted on Consumed by Ink…

Consumed by Ink

The Scotiabank Giller Prize was founded in 1994 by the late Jack Rabinovitch in honour of his wife, the late literary journalist Doris Giller. The prize awards $100,000 annually to the author of the best Canadian novel or short story collection published in English, and $10,000 to each of the finalists.

The 2019 Giller Prize jury members are: Randy Boyagoda (Jury Chair), Aminatta Forna, Aleksandar (Sasha) Hemon, Donna Bailey Nurse, and José Teodoro.

“The 2019 Scotiabank Giller Prize longlist reveals and affirms a welcome and timely truth: Canadian fiction in 2019 is as confident in its exploration and interrogation of the local as it is curious and voracious in its engagement with the world beyond our borders, with time and place being understood in ways that are expansive, warping, and unexpectedly intimate.”

This year I will be joining Alison from The Globe and Mail and Marcie from Buried in Print on…

View original post 234 more words

Three From the Shortlist #2

November 8, 2018

Kim reviews Motherhood

The Subject:As you’d expect for a book with a philosophical bent, it explores lots of interesting ideas about what it is to be a mother (doing what you, as a woman, were supposedly put on earth to do, for example) as well as what it is to be woman of child-bearing age who chooses not to bear children (helping the planet by not adding to the world’s population, is just one theory posited).”

The Style:Written in direct first-person text, almost as if the author is trying to talk herself into — or perhaps out of — making a decision, it’s occasionally humorous and often illuminating, but mostly — and I hate to say this — it’s downright self-indulgent.”

The Conclusion: Visit Kim’s blog, Reading Matters, for the full review!


Marcie reviews An Ocean of Minutes 

The Conflict:One remarkable aspect of Thea Lim’s novel is her capacity to move beyond the clear-cut delineations of victim and perpetrator, which makes for a more intriguing and rewarding story.

Once one acknowledges that everyone has the capacity to receive and to wield injury, the question of responsibility is ever-more complex. There are no convenient labels, so conflicts are not characterized by blame and rage, rather a more delicate dance of atonement and forgiveness, which is more unsettling but, ultimately, more satisfying.”

The Genre:The time-travel element gives this novel a whiff of genre, which isn’t generally rewarded by Giller Prize juries. Sometimes a title sneaks into the longlist, like Stephen Price’s By Gaslight, Dan Vyleta’s The Quiet Twin and Clifford Jackman’s The Winter Family. Very occasionally to the shortlist, like Patrick deWitt’s The Sisters Brothers and Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake. So it’s already unusual to see Thea Lim’s debut on the list; either the jurors are smitten, or they are committed to representing (even if not necessarily rewarding) genre writing.

The Conclusion: Visit Marcie’s blog, Buried in Print, for the full review!


Naomi reviews Washington Black

The Adventure:The story takes us from the heat of Barbados to the chill of the Arctic, from the salt wind of Nova Scotia to the drizzle of England and the deserts of Morocco. It begins as a desperate escape from slave hunters, and ends in an obsessive search for a man.

The Octopus:Since this book first came out, I have been captivated by the octopus on the cover. What is an octopus doing on the cover of a book about an escaped slave?

Well, let me tell you…

The Conclusion: Visit my blog, Consumed by Ink, for the full review!


Have you read any of these? Which ones tempt you?

Three From the Longlist

October 11, 2017

Sometimes we on the shadow jury like to get a jump start on the Giller books as soon as the longlist comes out. Sometimes these books end up making it to the shortlist, but often do not. That, however, doesn’t make them any less worth reading and writing about.

Very early on, Kim had a review up of Next Year For Sure by Zoey Leigh Peterson. Here’s a taste of what she says about it.


From the start I thought the premise of Next Year, For Sure sounded dubious, the sort of book I wouldn’t like, but I was pleasantly surprised by how entertaining and enjoyable it turned out to be. I ate it up in just a handful of sittings and even though I didn’t much like the characters — too needy, too self-centred, too feckless — Peterson does such a brilliant job of putting us in their heads, explaining their motivations, their concerns, their fears, that it was hard not to become totally immersed in their story.

To read Kim’s review in full, please visit her blog.


Several months ago, before the Giller lists had come out, I had read and reviewed Boundary by Andrée A. Michaud on my blog. Although I’m not a big mystery reader, I found that the heart of the story was about the community; how neighbours react and cope when a terrible crime hits so close to home.


At times I found the story thrilling, at other times more of a study of time and place, but either way I found it compulsive reading. I was just as invested in the reactions of the characters as I was in solving the crime. One thing that I think made it particularly effective was the periodic narration of a 12-year-old girl vacationing in Boundary with her family. Seeing it all unfold from the eyes of one of the children – whose parents attempt to shield her from it – involved but not involved – trying to figure out the adults’ secrets – not quite knowing for sure – but sometimes seeing things the adults don’t see.

To read my review in full, please visit my blog.


More recently, I read We’ll All Be Burnt in Our Beds Some Night by Joel Thomas Hynes. A bold choice for the Giller list. But once I got into it, I realized how deserving it is.


…once I got into this book I was engrossed by the character’s struggle with himself and with everyone else he comes across, and I was in awe of the author’s skill at creating such an unpleasant, angry, abrasive character who I felt nothing but sympathy for. I wanted him to be saved. I wanted to save him.

There’s blood, drugs, uncomfortable situations, fire ants, sunburns, an accident with a moose, a run-in with his biological father, a fight with some teenage girls, and a lot of walking. During this time, our Johnny has a lot of time to think and to spout off at the world, and to try to figure out where he’s going in life. Will he be able to pull himself together to overcome all the stuff life has thrown at him, or will he just become another unknown, troublesome, invisible guy?

To read my review in full, please visit my blog.

Naomi reviews The Best Kind of People 

October 5, 2016

The Shadow Giller jury is continuing to work its way through this year’s shortlist. Naomi, from Consumed by Ink, has read Zoe Whittall’s The Best Kind of People, which she describes as “timely, insightful, and a page-turner”.

“This is a book that will appeal to a wide audience, and will get people talking. And thinking: How would you react if someone you loved and trusted with the worst of crimes? The Best Kind of People is an examination of rape culture; what it looks like and how it affects us, the victims as well as the accused.”

Naomi goes on to say that while the subject matter is heavy, Whittall writes it in such a way that it “feels effortless and conversational. She even throws in some humour to lighten things up”.

To read Naomi’s review in full, please visit her blog.

Kimbofo reviews Fifteen Dogs

September 28, 2015

12015 AlexisKimbofo has kicked off her Giller reading this year with Fifteen Dogs, Andre Alexis’ novel. Here is the opening of her review — you can get the full version here:

André Alexis’s Fifteen Dogs has been longlisted for this year’s Giller Prize. It’s by far the oddest, and possibly most absurd, book I’ve read in a long while. Indeed, to say I didn’t much like it might be an understatement.

Under normal circumstances, I’m sure I would have abandoned this strange and unusual novella. But as some of you will no doubt know, every year since 2011 I have taken part in the Shadow Giller — chaired by KevinfromCanada — in which a group of us read and review all the books on the Giller Prize longlist for that year. Between the four of us, we then choose a winner in advance of the real Giller. (You can read more about how the Shadow Giller came about on Kevin’s blog here.) And because I’m taking part in the process once again for 2015, I felt that I had to finish the book — even when every bone (pun not intended) in my body told me to put it aside and read something else instead!

So, what’s so weird about it, I hear you ask? Well, it takes the form of a fable in which the Greek gods Hermes and Apollo give a group of dogs the gift of consciousness. The idea is that intelligence does not make humans any more superior or happier than other animals.

“— I’ll wager a year’s servitude, said Apollo, that animals — any animal you choose — would be even more unhappy than humans are, if they had human intelligence.
— An earth year? I’ll take that bet, said Hermes, but on condition that if, at the end of its life, even one of the
creatures is happy, I win.”

And then 15 dogs, all staying overnight in a veterinary clinic in Toronto, discover that they can suddenly think for themselves, talk in a new language (English) and reason with one another. Yes, I told you it was a weird book.

Kim’s convinced me — I won’t be reading this one unless it make the shortlist (and even then only to try to figure out what the judges could be thinking). She is moving on to Patrick deWitt’s Undermajordomo Minor next. I’m almost finished Connie Gault’s A Beauty and should have a review up later this week.


September 22, 2015

It turns out I was a tad optimistic in announcing the return of the Kevin From Canada blog. A medical procedure that I thought I could take in stride has got in the way of both reading and blogging.

I’m hoping to be back in shape shortly. I have all the Giller titles on hand and still intend to get to as many as possible. Thanks in advance for bearing with me.

Trevor reviews The Beggar’s Garden; Kimbofo on The Sisters Brothers

September 26, 2011

The shortlist announcement is not far off; the Shadow Jury continues reading away. Our short story expert, Trevor, has positive thoughts about The Beggar’s Garden by Michael Christie (full review is here) — here are his opening thoughts:

The Giller Prize does it again: The Beggar’s Garden (2011) is another excellent short story collection, and another from a debut author. The author’s blurb says that Michael Christie “worked in a homeless shelter in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside and provided outreach to the severely mentally ill.” His experiences there have made there way into this collection with striking emotion and clarity.

The Beggar’s Garden is made up of nine short stories, each centering on someone dealing with some form of mental illness or homelessness or both. Each story stands entirely on its own, though throughout Christie has them slyly referencing each other. No story was a failure, though I have to admit that I liked the ones in the first half quite a bit more than the ones in the second half. That said, I’ve gone back to those early stories and found that they not only held up to my memory but have strengthened

Kimbofo, meanwhile, has reviewed The Sisters Brothers (full review here). Her opening thoughts:

Canadian author Patrick deWitt’s The Sisters Brothers has been shortlisted for this year’s Booker Prize and longlisted for this year’s Giller Prize.

It is the kind of book that could best be described as an enjoyable romp. It’s billed as a Western, but I saw it more as a road story — with guns and horses.

Set during the California gold rush of the 1850s, it is narrated by Eli Sister, one half of the Sisters brothers of the title, who makes his living as an assassin. But Eli is not your average killer for hire — he has a sensitive side, troubled by his weight, worried he’ll never find a woman to settle down with and constantly dreaming of a different life, perhaps running a trading post “just as long as everything was restful and easy and completely different from my present position in the world”.

His elder brother Charlie is more what one would imagine as a typical killer — he is ruthless, is attracted to violence and doesn’t suffer fools. But he’s also an alcoholic and his love of brandy means he spends a lot of his time on the road nursing horrendous hangovers.

All three Shadow Giller bloggers have now reviewed The Sisters Brothers (which is shortlisted for the Booker Prize, in addition to its Giller longlisting). Trevor’s review is here, KfC’s here.

New Face of Fiction winners

April 20, 2011

And the lucky winners selected with numbers from Random.Org are:

1. Touch, by Alexi Zentner — Pat
2. A Cold Night for Alligators, by Nick Crowe — Kayla
3. Every Time We Say Goodbye, by Jamie Zeppa — Mary Townson

And internationally, Guy Savage who chose A Cold Night for Alligators.

I have email addresses for all the winners and will send you a message to get postal details.

My thanks to everyone who entered and to Random House Canada for providing copies for the Canadian contests. We will try to do this again next year.

%d bloggers like this: