Our staff pick their favourite fiction titles from 2017. Sink into a chair and revel in some of the best fiction we've come across so far. For nonfiction staff picks, award winners and more, head over to our Recommended Reads page.
Son of a trickster
Wow, this is a top-notch book from a unique Canadian writer! Jared is an indigenous teen who sells weed cookies, has a scary, very foul-mouthed mom, parties too hard and is just trying to get through high school. He also has a kind heart and a quick wit. In another writer’s hands, Jared and the other characters would be stereotypes. In Robinson’s totally authentic prose, humour and heartbreak mesh to bring us an unforgettable novel. And that’s before Trickster, talking fireflies and murderous river otters get involved. (Leah, Queen's Square)
Lincoln in the Bardo
Good fiction on grief seems to be a recurring theme of my favourite 2017 novels. Lincoln in the Bardo explores the grief of Abraham Lincoln after the death of his son Willie from typhoid fever. Saunders is a masterful writer and many Idea Exchange member have commented that this is one of the best novels they have read in several years. This is Saunders first novel. (Phil, Queen's Square).
Fiction that explores the lives of real people always interests me, even if the novel fails me in the end. American Wife by Curtis Sittenfield and Mrs Nixon by Anne Beattie are two recent examples. Sittenfield explores the life of Laura Bush (although unnamed), while Beattie imagines the life of Pat Nixon. Both worth reading, but both failing to give any sense of real insight.
Gray succeeds in another way. Isadora explores the grief of modern giant of dance Isadora Duncan, who lost her children in a tragic accident in 1913. And it is through this exploration that, Gray delves so deeply and memorably into the human psyche. The writing is fantastic and the insights will stay with you long after you put down this novel. (Phil, Queen's Square)
A promise of fire
Magic flares and three kingdoms fight for control with the current Kings and Queens constantly watching their backs for the knives (usually coming from their own kin). In the midst is Catalina Fisk, a woman with mysterious powers who's hiding from a homicidal mother and her destiny. Griffin, a warlord from a magic-deprived kingdom, kidnaps her for her powers. Then the real adventure begins... This one has it all! Fickle gods, dazzling magic, action, romance, adventure! I couldn’t wait to read the next book! (Leah, Queen's Square)
Rise & shine, Benedict Stone
Another charming, inspiring book from the author of The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper! Jeweller Benedict Stone is in a rut. His wife has left him, his business is slowly fading and every day seems dreary. Then his teenage niece Gemma blows into his life and things start to change. I love Patrick’s writing because she mixes poignancy and heart without being too sugary. A sweet and endearing feel-good book! (Leah, Queen's Square)
Small great things
Ruth Jefferson is an educated, middle-aged woman that holds a respected nursing position at a local hospital and has a son on the honors list. During a busy work shift, she is assigned to conduct routine screening on a newborn baby, Davis Bauer. Ruth quickly learns that the baby’s parents are white supremacists when she is banned from helping the patient because she is African American. After the baby goes into cardiac arrest, she is faced with the decision to honour her oath to the Nightingale Pledge, or to submit to the racist orders that restrict her from doing her job.
In the bestselling novel, Small Great Things, Jodi Picoult weaves a compelling tale that alternates between three varied perspectives. Ruth Jackson tells her story through the disheartened eyes of a nurse whose life has been shattered after she is condemned for not responding to a medical issue quickly enough. Turk Bauer provides a harrowing recount of a lost youth becoming a white supremacist and his unshakable desire for someone to pay for what he has lost. Lastly, Kennedy McQuarrie, a public defender, provides an intimate view of how race relations are approached in the judicial system. Through many different eyes, this novel sends readers on a thought-provoking journey that sheds light on ongoing issues of racism and hate. (Stephanie, Queen's Square Library)
Hurwitz, Gregg Andrew.
Fans of Lee Child will love this exciting action-packed new book by Gregg Hurwitz. Evan Smoak turned his back on his dangerous past when he learned he’d been betrayed. To atone, he becomes The Nowhere Man and helps desperate people who can’t help themselves. He has the skills and smarts to best anyone. But someone is after him and only one of them will be left standing… (Leah, Queen's Square)
Two if by sea
Haunting but hopeful, this is a riveting book! Hours after he loses his wife and his unborn child in a tsunami, former police officer Frank Mercy pulls a young boy from a car seconds before it is whisked away. Without knowing why Frank illegally adopts him and vows to keep him safe. He soon sees the boy, Ian, is very special with an extraordinary telepathic gift that people would kill to possess. On the run from Australia, to America to Britain, Frank and his family know they must protect Ian no matter the cost. (Leah, Queen's Square)
Anyone familiar with Claire Fuller’s debut novel Our Endless Numbered Days knows she is a literary tour de force, and her second and highly anticipated novel Swimming Lessons does not disappoint. Told from differing perspectives, it is the story of a breakdown of a marriage, and subsequently, a family. Ingrid Coleman feels trapped in her marriage to famous writer and womanizer, Gil. We know that she has been gone for 12 years, but do not know if she left or committed suicide. Ingrid tries to explain the truth of her marriage and the reasons for her absence through a series of letters hidden in the thousands of books Gil has collected and scattered throughout the house.
Now an adult, Ingrid’s daughter Flora has returned home to look after her aging and injured father. Flora has secretly never believed that her mother is dead, and as she starts asking questions, we learn about the extent of Gil’s philandering and the depths of Ingrid’s unhappiness. This novel is extremely well-written and thought-provoking. (Carroll, Queen’s Square Library)
The lonely hearts hotel
At the dawn of the Great Depression, two children fall in love at a Montreal orphanage. They dream up a sensational travelling show, but before they can make their dream a reality they are separated by forces beyond their control. One falls in with the mafia, the other falls into drug addiction ... but their love endures. O’Neill’s prose is so whimsical that this story about the seedy underworld of 1930’s Montreal feels like a fairytale. (Jessica, Preston)
In 1840’s London, two families – one noble, the other nouveau riche – face scandal when an old secret begins to surface. Filled with upstairs/downstairs drama, illicit love affairs, and lavish settings, this is a fun read for historical fiction fans. Julian Fellowes originally released this serialized novel in weekly episodes, so the pacing is not unlike his hit series, “Downton Abbey.” (Jessica, Preston)
As a word and a song, moonglow brings to mind a certain mid-century bittersweet wistfulness. It's romantic yet fleeting, elegant yet obscuring. Here too, in this end of life confession, that feeling comes to light. This is the story of a WWII veteran who experienced so many things and yet was unwilling to tell a soul until his final hours. It's through his grandson's voice that we hear of his obsession with rockets, with going to the moon, and with escaping the horrors of war. So entertaining and beautifully told. Oh, I flat out adored this book -- I read it once and then I had to read it all over again. (Laura, Queen's Square)
All our wrong todays
This tale of time travel gone wrong has an unusual twist: the time traveler in question doesn't come from a horrible dystopian future but from the kind of advanced technological paradise one might see in The Jetsons or pulp '50s science fiction magazines. Our protagonist, Tom Barren leaves this astonishing world of the future behind to test the time machine invented by his genius father. Unfortunately, he makes a mistake that destroys his version of reality, condemning everyone he's ever known to oblivion and setting up a new, less promising future in its place. As he builds relationships in the new reality, Tom is left with a choice: will he restore the world he grew up in or settle down to life in a version of the future that was never supposed to exist? Fun characters, a wry sense of humour and an intriguing perspective on time travel set this novel apart, while the smooth pacing of the story makes it difficult to put down. Consider reading this novel time well-spent. (Meghan, Queen's Square)