As an avid reader, I’d love if Canadians adopted the Icelandic tradition of Jólabókaflóð (Yule Book Flood). On Christmas Eve, Icelanders exchange gifts of books and then spend the evening reading.
This custom sounds like heaven to me because my wish list for Santa always includes books. If you have a reader on your Christmas list, here are six novels to consider for gifts. All titles were published in 2018.
Women Talking by Miriam Toews
Women in an ultraconservative Mennonite colony gather after several of their men have been arrested for sexual assault. The men will return to the community in two days so the women have a short time to decide how to move forward: do nothing, stay and fight, or leave. As the women debate, they touch on subjects like faith, forgiveness, and love. Heated exchanges are interspersed with humour. This novel invites discussion so would be great for someone in a book club.
The Boat People by Sharon Bala
This book is narrated from three perspectives. Mahindan, a Tamil, arrives in Vancouver aboard a cargo ship, seeking asylum for himself and his son. Priya, a second-generation Sri-Lankan-Canadian, is an articling student helping Mahindan’s immigration lawyer. Grace, a third-generation Japanese-Canadian, adjudicates refugee cases and will determine Mahindan’s ultimate fate. This novel received short shrift on Canada Reads but deserves to be read as it examines the complex situation in which refugees find themselves.
Up From Freedom by Wayne Grady
Virgil Moody vowed he would never own slaves though he takes Annie, a house slave, with him when he leaves his father’s plantation. Moody considers Annie and her son Lucas his family. When Lucas falls in love with a slave girl and flees with her, Virgil sets out to find them. In its examination of the concept of freedom, this book is a nice companion to another good book: Washington Black, the Giller Prize-winner by Esi Edugyan.
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
During the week Eleanor Oliphant works as an accounting clerk; on weekends, she drinks vodka and speaks to no one. She is a misfit with little knowledge of social conventions, but an act of kindness slowly draws her into the wider world. Eleanor has a sad life but there is considerable humour in her observations about the world, and the reader cannot but love Eleanor and cheer for her as she steps outside her comfort zone.
Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver
Two families live in the same area, 150 years apart, in times when old beliefs are being challenged. In 1870, a teacher puts his job at risk and his family in financial peril by teaching the theory of evolution. In 2016, a family finds their dreams of success and financial stability unfulfilled while “The Bullhorn” campaigns to be the next President. The book combines rich storytelling and social commentary.
Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak
Five brothers live together unsupervised. One day, their father, whom the boys call “the Murderer”, arrives to ask help in building a bridge. Though his decision is seen as a betrayal, Clay, the second youngest, decides to join his father. What follows is the story of Clay’s helping build a physical bridge while also trying to reconnect a fragmented family. Like that of Zusak’s previous novel, The Book Thief, the style is unique.
Complete reviews of all these books can be found at https://schatjesshelves.blogspot.com/.
Merry Christmas! Happy Reading!
Featured photo: Doreen Yakabuski’s festive book tree