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Three books we’ve read recently and what we thought about them 📚

Three books we’ve read recently and what we thought about them 📚

Bad Cree by Jessica Johns
Absolutely thrilled to get our hands on some Indigenous Canadian fiction from Jessica Johns, a nehiyaw (Cree) aunty and member of the Sucker Creek First Nation in Northern Alberta. You’ll hear this one described as a horror novel and admittedly that made us nervous so we’ll let you know upfront that it’s more richly gothic than gruesome and (hopefully) won’t terrify you completely.

Mackenzie is a young Cree woman who is haunted by ominous dreams. After the death of her sister, she fled her family in rural Alberta but is forced to return when she can no longer cope alone. The novel beautifully uses Cree beliefs about dreams and indigenous philosophy to shape the story and the shared grief within Mackenzie’s family becomes the driving force of the novel, a sadness that quite literally threatens to consume them. 

Mackenzie’s gradual willingness to open up about her strange dreams sparks a series of revelations from other women in the family who begin to share their own secrets. Her cousins, aunties, and mother become increasingly connected, powerful and willing to fight to the (scary!) end to protect each other.

A Country of Eternal Light by Paul Dalgarno
'Margaret Bryce, deceased mother of twins, has been having a hard time since dying in 2014', so begins the blurb of this audacious and absorbing novel by Scottish-Australian author and journalist Paul Dalgarno. This, quite literally, transportive story takes us from 1945 to 2021, as Margaret flits from wartime Germany to Thatcher's Britain to modern-day Scotland, Australia and Spain. The reader feels entirely at ease in Margaret's afterlife as she revisits the past and ponders philosophical questions on mortality, grief and our sustained connections to those we love. As playful as it is poignant, and as probing as it is purely entertaining, you will no doubt be seeing A Country of Eternal Light on all the literary award lists later this year.

Higher Education by Kira McPherson
We love a campus coming-of-age novel. The awkwardness, tenderness, and confusion of nascent identity during those undergraduate years. Think Love and Virtue by Diana Reid or The Idiot by Elif Batuman. Need we even mention Sally Rooney?

In Higher Education, Kira McPherson gives us a different version of that university story, one without the inherent privileges of money and class.  We meet young law student Sam, who jokes of herself, ‘I am from, she begins grandly, what you would call a low socioeconomic background. She enunciates it.’ 
Sam feels like an outsider, from her peers as well as from her own understanding of her sexuality. Pursuing higher education has separated her from her family, she is not even particularly attached to her law degree or any sense of her own career-path.

When she meets Julia, the wife of her literature professor, she is captivated and begins a confused and complicated relationship. She engages Julia as her mentor. They both share grief at the loss of their fathers.  They get closer, boundaries are crossed and this intimate affair and its fall-out is at the heart of Sam’s awakening. Try this debut if you’re after a smart take on class, culture and desire.

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