2016’s most anticipated Canadian page-turners

A year of true north, strong and read

2016 is shaping up to be an exciting year for the Canadian literature scene.
2016 is shaping up to be an exciting year for the Canadian literature scene.

Most people write down a list of resolutions and goals as a way of ringing in the new year. Some clean out their closets, while others sit down with their loved ones to reminisce.

I make a master list of the year’s exciting book releases. 

It may be an unconventional way to get yourself pumped for a new year, but there’s little else that gets me as excited as knowing the upcoming year will be full of great literature.

From books about national security to self-worth and body image to a wounded soldier enamoured with birdwatching, this year’s most anticipated Canadian novels could make 2016 the year you’ll finally check off “be more cultured” on your list of resolutions.

13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl

By Mona Awad

Release date: Feb. 23

Although writer Mona Awad spent several years abroad pursuing an MFA in fiction at Brown University, and a PhD in creative writing at the University of Denver, her debut novel is set in the metropolitan Canadian suburb she grew up in — Mississauga.

The novel traces the vulnerable yet wit-infused narrative of protagonist Lizzie as she struggles to come to terms with her weight — something she always hated about herself. When she starts meeting guys online, she’s afraid to send them any pictures of herself. So, she starts losing weight.

She obsessively counts every stray calorie, every pound dropped, every number she cuts off the dress sizes. As she struggles to lose as much weight as she can, she finds herself not knowing when to stop and realizes that she still sees herself as the fat girl, no matter how much she weighs.

Bustle.com named the novel as one of “17 of 2016’s Most Anticipated Books.” Awad’s debut, Bustle writer Meredith Turits wrote, “announces her as a writer with real insight not only to the mind, but also the heart.”

Tackling issues as significant as body image, and doing so honestly and intimately, is no easy feat.  If the critics are right, this novel is one of the most exciting Canadian reads entering a bookstore near you.

The Evening Chorus

By Helen Humphreys

Release date: Feb. 2

Some may recognize the decorated author behind this novel — Helen Humphreys is none other than the poet laureate of Kingston. Having already published four books of poetry, six novels and two works of creative non-fiction, Humphreys is set to release historical novel The Evening Chorus in just a couple weeks.

The novel follows English officer James Hunter in the Second World War. After being shot down on his first RAF mission, Hunter is sent to a German POW camp. While other prisoners imagine dangerous escape plans, Hunter begins studying a pair of redstarts — a small, ruby-crested bird — near the camp. The Kommandant notices Hunter’s strange interest in the birds, which Hunter realizes is enough reason to fear for his life.

Meanwhile, Hunter’s wife Rose is at home. She’s falling further headlong into an affair with another man, until Hunter’s sister comes to stay with her and they form an unlikely friendship.

Critics have said that Humphreys writes with ease about stories that span the world. Margot Livesy of the Boston Globe wrote that she finished The Evening Chorus “with a sense of wonder that so much life and pain and beauty could be contained in so few pages.”

I find it can be difficult, sometimes, to make historical novels seem relatable beyond the niche market of the genre. Humphrey’s most recent novel seems it could do just that.

The Language of Secrets

Ausma Zehanat Khan

Release date: Feb. 2

Canadian writer Ausma Zehanat Khan is the eloquent presence behind the voice of her fiery protagonist, detective Esa Khattak.

In the detective novel, Khattak leads Canada’s Community Policing Section, a department in charge of cases that are minority-sensitive. Minority-sensitive cases could impact foreign affairs with other countries or shift perceptions of minorities within another nation.

When INSET, Canada’s national security commission, calls on Khattak to deal with a politically delicate issue, he’s surprised to find just how sensitive it is. INSET has been looking into a local terrorist group they believe is planning an attack on New Year’s Day, and placed an informant — Mohsin Dar — inside the group. Just weeks before the attack is expected to take place, INSET receives news that Dar has been murdered.

INSET wants to appear as though they’re investigating the murder, but buries the lead to avoid revealing that they’re aware of the cell’s plans. Khattak, however, realizes he can’t let this one go.

Zehanat Khan was once editor-in-chief of Muslim Girl magazine, where she wrote and published work to challenge stereotypes and misinformed impressions about the Middle East and Islamic cultures. She writes with sensitivity and grace about Islamic radicalism, an issue that’s more relevant now than ever.

Khan’s new novel teaches as well as entertains, according to Kirkus Reviews. “Everyone has their reasons, Khan understands, and her nuanced exploration of these reasons elevates her second novel above the general run of detective fiction,” they wrote.

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