– “All My Puny Sorrows” by Miriam Toews
Miriam Toews is beloved for her irresistible voice, for mingling laughter and heartwrenching poignancy like no other writer. In her most passionate novel yet, she brings us the riveting story of two sisters, and a love that illuminates life.
You won’t forget Elf and Yoli, two smart and loving sisters. Elfrieda, a world-renowned pianist, glamorous, wealthy, happily married: she wants to die. Yolandi, divorced, broke, sleeping with the wrong men as she tries to find true love: she desperately wants to keep her older sister alive. Yoli is a beguiling mess, wickedly funny even as she stumbles through life struggling to keep her teenage kids and mother happy, her exes from hating her, her sister from killing herself and her own heart from breaking.
But Elf’s latest suicide attempt is a shock: she is three weeks away from the opening of her highly anticipated international tour. Her long-time agent has been calling and neither Yoli nor Elf’s loving husband knows what to tell him. Can she be nursed back to “health” in time? Does it matter? As the situation becomes ever more complicated, Yoli faces the most terrifying decision of her life.
All My Puny Sorrows, at once tender and unquiet, offers a profound reflection on the limits of love, and the sometimes unimaginable challenges we experience when childhood becomes a new country of adult commitments and responsibilities. In her beautifully rendered new novel, Miriam Toews gives us a startling demonstration of how to carry on with hope and love and the business of living even when grief loads the heart.
– “On Walking: A Walker’s Guide to the Art of Observation” by Alexandra Horowitz
You are missing most of what is happening around you right now. You are missing what is happening in the distance and right in front of you. In reading these words, you are ignoring an unthinkably large amount of information that continues to bombard all of your senses. The hum of the fluorescent lights; the ambient noise in the room; the feeling of the chair against your legs or back; your tongue touching the roof of your mouth; the tension you are holding in your shoulders or jaw; the constant hum of traffic or a distant lawnmower; the blurred view of your own shoulders and torso in your peripheral vision; a chirp of a bug or whine of a kitchen appliance.
On Looking begins with inattention. It is not meant to help you focus on your reading of Tolstoy; it is not about how to multitask. Rather, it is about attending to the joys of the unattended, the perceived “ordinary.” Horowitz encourages us to rediscover the extraordinary things that we are missing in our ordinary activities. Even when engaged in the simplest of activities-taking a walk around the block-we pay so little attention to most of what is right before us that we are sleepwalkers in our own lives. So turn off the phone and portable electronics and get into the real world, where you’ll find there are worlds within worlds within worlds.
– “Unrepentant: The Strange and (Sometimes Terrible Life of Lorne Campbell, Satan’s Choice and Hells Angels Biker” by Peter Edwards
In this explicit first-hand account, a biker who spent 46 years as a member of the Hells Angels and Satan’s Choice invites bestselling author Peter Edwards into the story of life lived as we’ve only imagined it.
A kid raised by his father’s fists on the wrong side of a blue-collar town, Lorne Campbell grew up watching the local bikers ride past, making him wonder what that kind of freedom and power would feel like. He soon found out. At the age of seventeen, he became the youngest-ever member of the Satan’s Choice Motorcycle Club and spent the next five decades living a life for which he does not ask forgiveness, only that his story finally be told, and that his family finally understand what drove him to live the way he did. With moments of terror and humour, great sadness and the simple pleasures of camaraderie and the open road, Unrepentant is a book like none other.
– “The Lion Seeker” by Kenneth Bonert
In the tradition of the great immigrant sagas, The Lion Seeker brings us Isaac Helger, son of Lithuanian Jewish immigrants, surviving the streets of Johannesburg in the shadow of World War II
Are you a stupid or a clever?
Such is the refrain in Isaac Helger’s mind as he makes his way from redheaded hooligan to searching adolescent to striving young man on the make. His mother’s question haunts every choice. Are you a stupid or a clever? Will you find a way to lift your family out of Johannesburg’s poor inner city, to buy a house in the suburbs, to bring your aunts and cousins from Lithuania?
Isaac’s mother is a strong woman and a scarred woman; her maimed face taunts him with a past no one will discuss. As World War II approaches, then falls upon them, they hurtle toward a catastrophic reckoning. Isaac must make decisions that, at first, only seem to be life-or-death, then actually are.
Meanwhile, South Africa’s history, bound up with Europe’s but inflected with its own accents—Afrikaans, Zulu, Yiddish, English—begins to unravel. Isaac’s vibrant, working-class, Jewish neighborhood lies near the African slums; under cover of night, the slums are razed, the residents forced off to townships. Isaac’s fortune-seeking takes him to the privileged seclusion of the Johannesburg suburbs, where he will court forbidden love. It partners him with the unlucky, unsinkable Hugo Bleznick, selling miracle products to suspicious farmers. And it leads him into a feud with a grayshirt Afrikaaner who insidiously undermines him in the auto shop, where Isaac has found the only work that ever felt true. And then his mother’s secret, long carefully guarded, takes them to the diamond mines, where everything is covered in a thin, metallic dust, where lions wait among desert rocks, and where Isaac will begin to learn the bittersweet reality of success bought at truly any cost.
A thrilling ride through the life of one fumbling young hero, The Lion Seeker is a glorious reinvention of the classic family and coming-of-age sagas. We are caught — hearts open and wrecked — between the urgent ambitions of a mother who knows what it takes to survive and a son straining against the responsibilities of the old world, even as he is endowed with the freedoms of the new.
– “The Demonologist” by Andrew Pyper
A stolen child.
An ancient evil.
A father’s descent.
And the literary masterpiece that holds the key to his daughter’s salvation.
Professor David Ullman is among the world’s leading authorities on demonic literature, with special expertise in Milton’s Paradise Lost. Not that David is a believer—he sees what he teaches as a branch of the imagination and nothing more. So when the mysterious Thin Woman arrives at his office and invites him to travel to Venice and witness a “phenomenon,” he turns her down. She leaves plane tickets and an address on his desk, advising David that her employer is not often disappointed.
That evening, David’s wife announces she is leaving him. With his life suddenly in shambles, he impulsively whisks his beloved twelve-year-old daughter, Tess, off to Venice after all. The girl has recently been stricken by the same melancholy moods David knows so well, and he hopes to cheer her up and distract them both from the troubles at home.
But what happens in Venice will change everything.
First, in a tiny attic room at the address provided by the Thin Woman, David sees a man restrained in a chair, muttering, clearly insane . . . but could he truly be possessed? Then the man speaks clearly, in the voice of David’s dead father, repeating the last words he ever spoke to his son. Words that have left scars—and a mystery—behind.
When David rushes back to the hotel, he discovers Tess perched on the roof’s edge, high above the waters of the Grand Canal. Before she falls, she manages to utter a final plea: Find me.
What follows is an unimaginable journey for David Ullman from skeptic to true believer. In a terrifying quest guided by symbols and riddles from the pages of Paradise Lost, David must track the demon that has captured his daughter and discover its name. If he fails, he will lose Tess forever.
– “Midwinterblood” by Marcus Sedgwick
Have you ever had the feeling that you’ve lived another life? Been somewhere that has felt totally familiar, even though you’ve never been there before, or felt that you know someone well, even though you are meeting them for the first time? It happens. In 2073 on the remote and secretive island of Blessed, where rumour has it that no one ages and no children are born, a visiting journalist, Eric Seven, and a young local woman known as Merle are ritually slain. Their deaths echo a moment ten centuries before, when, in the dark of the moon, a king was slain, tragically torn from his queen. Their souls search to be reunited, and as mother and son, artist and child, forbidden lovers, victims of a vampire they come close to finding what they’ve lost. In a novel comprising seven parts, each influenced by a moon – the flower moon, the harvest moon, the hunter’s moon, the blood moon – this is the story of Eric and Merle whose souls have been searching for each other since their untimely parting.
Also, the Backbeat Book Club is having our inaugural meeting here at the shop tomorrow night (Wednesday, April 16th) at 7 pm. We will be focusing on Canadian authors and their works, specifically the CBC Canada Reads books. Please contact Christine at the shop (firstname.lastname@example.org or 613.466.0663) if you’d like to join us!