Open a book this minute and start reading. Don’t move until you’ve reached page fifty. Until you’ve buried your thoughts in print. Cover yourself with words. Wash yourself away. Dissolve. Carol Shields Republic of Love

“Family Furnishings” Alice Munro

Alfrida’s apartment is crowded.

“’I know I’ve got far too much stuff in here,’ she said. ‘But it’s my parents’ stuff. It’s family furnishings, and I couldn’t let them go.’

The story about her parents, the loss of her mother, the other family with whom she visits only half-heartedly after she has moved to the [...]

“Floating Bridge” Alice Munro

Jinny has been standing on shifting ground.

Expectations are thwarted: these are times of transformation.

This was true, too, in “Gravel” and in “Oh What Avails”.

But there she is: the space in which she is standing shifts both literally and metaphorically.

Things have been all-a-shift for some time now.

Readers have the detailed [...]

“Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage” Alice Munro

In playing the game, a girl writes the name of a boy beside her own name, crosses out the letters in common and counts off the various states of being: ”Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage”.

This is what matters: her relationship with a man.

And, reading it that way, it seems to be a progression, but [...]

Lissa M. Cowan’s Milk Fever (2013)

You might not guess from the cover of this debut novel that the epigraph would be drawn from Olympe de Gouges’ “Declaration of the Rights of Women”.

Demeter Press, 2013

But one can be dressed in satin and lace and be a revolutionary, of course.

As was Olympe de Gouges, although her portrait was [...]

Carrianne K.Y. Leung’s The Wondrous Woo (2013)

It’s possible that the readers who will warm most fervently to The Wondrous Woo are those readers who feel a connection with a passage like this:

Inanna Publications, 2013

“The first episode had come after an incident at the Woolco cafeteria when I was ten. It was $1.44 day and we had been on [...]

Kim Fu’s For Today I Am a Boy (2014)

For Today I Am a Boy is a very ordinary story, told in a gentle and quiet voice.

Kim Fu’s novel does not challenge vehemently, like Ghalib Islam’s brash debut or Helen Oyeyemi’s Boy, Snow, Bird.

“My father stood on the step and watched with me. It was the fall of my senior year. He [...]

Greg Kearney’s The Desperates (2013)

In the beginning, Joel gets a new job. It’s a moment that might be filled with potential, promise. He could be the figure on the cover of the novel, leaping into the air.

Alternatively, Joel could be that figure on the cover and be plummeting to the earth, about to land – hard. Or, he [...]

Nick Cutter’s The Troop (2014)

A Stephen King blurb. And, it’s declared: a novel of terror. Nick Cutter’s readers know what they’re in for.

And, if there was any doubt, little clues speckle the first few chapters.

Readers are “waiting for unknown wickedness”.

There are shadows coalescing into permanence and logs groaning. There is a sheet of insects cloying and [...]

Steffie, Angel, Baby and More

When I was in high school, I read Fran Arrick’s Steffie Can’t Come Out to Play (1978) more than once.

I even wrote a book report on it in the ninth grade, when the assigned reading included J. Meade Falkner’s Moonfleet and Robert Westall’s The Machine Gunners. (Wanted: female characters.)

Quite likely this story of [...]

“My Mother’s Dream” Alice Munro

Perhaps, like many of us, Alice Munro has read and fully inhabited a story filled with wonders only to be cheated with the last-line revelation that the guts of that story were nothing but a dream.

In contrast, “My Mother’s Dream” subverts that expectation and begins with the dream, before shifting into reality.

But the [...]