Reading Birdie and Minister Without Portfolio felt like swimming in molasses, so I was hoping that The Hero’s Walk would let me conclude this year’s Canada Reads reading on a positive note.
Like Bone and Bread, The Hero’s Walk focuses on the effects of an unexpected death in a family. While it didn’t amaze me in the same way as The Illegal did, it left a very good impression with its portrait of intra-familial conflict and upheaval. Among other things, we encounter a father who sees himself as an ordinary man, a mother mourning the life she could never achieve, and a grandchild who seems to be holding a grudge against her grandfather.
The Illegal set the bar impossibly high for the other four Canada Reads books, but this book came very close to clearing it. If Lawrence Hill’s book gets an early exit, I have no qualms in supporting The Hero’s Walk.
That’s four out of five books I’ve read for this year’s edition of Canada Reads.
This book started off with a lot of promise. The main character, Henry Hayward, goes through a few events which send him reeling into uncertainty. I was looking forward to reading how his recovery would play out, but when I was done, nothing stayed with me. Granted, the writing is such that I didn’t see major plot points coming, especially in the beginning. I thought that characteristic worked in this book’s favour.
Unfortunately, the most positive thing I can say about this book is that I finished it.
I’m hopeful that Adam Copeland can elucidate the strengths of this book which I missed. However, unless the next book blows me away, I’ll be rooting for The Illegal to win Canada Reads this year.
Now that I’ve read Bone & Bread by Saleema Nawaz, I’ve read three out of the five books shortlisted for Canada Reads.
Thanks to this year’s Canada Reads q Broadcast, before reading this book, I knew that there was a character who lost both of her parents and her sister. Thankfully, this knowledge didn’t affect my enjoyment of this book in any way. (For the record, I avoid book reviews and summaries before reading any books.)
Speaking of enjoyment, I didn’t find it as compelling as The Illegal, even though it treads on some of the same subject matter. However, I believe that this book strongly adheres to the theme of starting over. Beena (the character I was referring to beforehand) copes with tremendous personal tragedy while struggling to maintain a relationship with her son, Quinn. On top of that, Quinn also wants to start over and have a relationship with with his father. Considering how the relationship with my own father has crumbled to pieces, this point continues to hit home even after finishing the book.
I hope Farah Mohamed has other angles upon which to elucidate the strength of Bone & Bread. While The Illegal is still the frontrunner in my mind, make no mistake – it is definitely not the only strong book in this year’s Canada Reads shortlist.
For all of the Canada Reads debates I’ve attended, I’ve never read all of the shortlisted books in any given year. I got the jump on changing that last week; when I noticed that one library branch had three of this year’s books available, I borrowed all of them at once. Meanwhile, I’m keeping my eyes peeled for the book which has thus far been the hardest to get. At press time, it has 150 holds on it with only seven copies available for distribution. Fortunately, in an early example of the Canada Reads Effect, copies are being ordered.
This afternoon, I finished reading book number two: Birdie by Tracey Lindberg.
I must confess that even though I was able to finish this book, I didn’t enjoy it like The Illegal. Whereas that book was a literary thrill ride, reading Birdie sometimes felt like a boring long-term homework assignment. In some ways, I actually wish I was studying it for an English course; I would have been more inclined to pay attention to the threads which the author weaves throughout. With that said, I did notice that Ms. Lindberg has a way with words which results in many memorable passages throughout her book. In retrospect, I wish I had an example for this blog entry.
I think Bruce Poon Tip has a difficult job ahead of him in defending this book, but I refuse to count him – and Birdie – out. Recall that in 2014, I didn’t like Rawi Hage’s Cockroach, but Samantha Bee’s defense of it was so good that I would have been pleased if it ended up taking the title. I even wanted to read Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis (which is often cited in discussing Cockroach), but I haven’t done that yet.
On to the next book!
As I write this entry, I’m eagerly awaiting the announcement of this year’s Canada Reads panelists. I already know the books which will be on this year’s edition of the show. Ideally, I would have found out during the broadcast of q, but I looked at the Canada Reads page before said announcement. Oops.
I wasn’t always a book person, but ever since I became one, Canada Reads has turned into an event I look forward to every year. If you’ve never experienced it for yourself, imagine Survivor, but with a much more intellectual bent. This may be a literary contest, but the discussions can get quite heated.
Without further ado, this year’s books and panelists…
Birdie by Tracey Lindberg (panelist: Bruce Poon Tip)
Bone and Bread by Saleema Nawaz (panelist: Farah Mohamed)
Minister Without Portfolio by Michael Winter (panelist: Adam Copeland, a.k.a. former wrestler Edge)
The Hero’s Walk by Anita Rau Badami (panelist: Vinay Virmani)
The Illegal by Lawrence Hill (panelist: Clara Hughes)
Apart from Clara Hughes and Edge (!!), I know pretty much nothing about these panelists. That said, their thirty-second defenses on this morning’s edition of q give me no reason to think that any one of them would be a weak link. Actually, much like Lainey last year, I think The Edge may surprise a lot of people.
Needless to say, I’m very much looking forward to Ms. Hughes’ defense of The Illegal; I hope she does it justice. Her initial defense reminded me of Samantha Bee’s defense of Cockroach from a few years ago; that’s a very good sign.
I haven’t read any of the other shortlisted books yet, but I’ll solve that problem soon enough. 😉
Sometimes, the simple act of reading becomes such a riveting experience that every spare moment must be devoted to it. Previously, books like The Mountain Story by Lori Lansens and Armada by Ernest Cline have given me that feeling.
Yesterday evening, I finished a book which gave me that feeling and then some: The Illegal by Lawrence Hill.
This work of fiction is almost four hundred pages, but I breezed through it in five days. It’s not light reading by any means, but its story is so efficiently structured and paced that delving into it was such a pleasure. It introduces many characters, but not so many that I lost my way at any time. I did, however, frequently review earlier chapters to jog my memory.
It’s a pity that this is my first experience with Lawrence Hill’s work. I’m probably the only person in Canada who hasn’t read The Book Of Negroes yet, but don’t be surprised if I change that! If it’s nearly as good as The Illegal, then I’m in for another treat.
Speaking of treats, this year’s Canada Reads longlist becomes a five-book shortlist tomorrow. The Illegal is on the longlist and I’ll be very happy if it ends up being one of the final five. In the right panelist’s hands, The Illegal has a significant chance of becoming Lawrence Hill’s second book to win Canada Reads, especially given its timeliness in relation to Canada’s response to the Syrian Refugee Crisis.
The book I’m currently reading is also on the longlist. Given the buzz surrounding it, I won’t be surprised if it’s also shortlisted.
Interesting fact: Lawrence Hill has one sister and one brother. You may have heard the brother’s work.