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2019 Governor General's Awards


Each year, the Canada Council for the Arts and the Governor General of Canada collaborate to honour the finest in Canadian literature with the Governor General's Literary Award. Check out our collection of winners from previous years.

Here are the fiction and nonfiction finalists for 2019:

Thomas, Joan
Five wives

2019 Fiction Winner: A story of five women who are left behind in the rainfores of Ecuador after their missionary husbands are killed.

Gillmor, Don.
To the river

2019 Nonfiction Winner:Author Don Gillmor attempts to understand why his brother took his own life, which leads him to question why baby boomers are killing themselves at a far greater rate than the Silent Generation before them or the generations that have followed? In the spring of 2006, Don Gillmor travelled to Whitehorse to reconstruct the last days of his brother, David, whose truck and cowboy hat were found at the edge of the Yukon River just outside of town the previous December. David's family, his second wife, and his friends had different theories about his disappearance. Some thought David had run away; some thought he'd met with foul play; but most believed that David, a talented musician who at the age of 48 was about to give up the night life for a day job, had intentionally walked into the water. Just as Don was about to paddle the river looking for traces, David's body was found. And Don's canoe trip turned into an act of remembrance and mourning. At least David could now be laid to rest. But there was no rest for his survivors. As his brother writes, "When people die of suicide, one of the things they leave behind is suicide itself. It becomes a country. At first I was a visitor, but eventually I became a citizen." In this tender, probing, surprising work, Don Gillmor brings back news from that country for all of us who wonder why people kill themselves. And why, for the first time, it's not the teenaged or the elderly who have the highest suicide rate, but middle aged men.

Crummey, Michael.
The innocents

Short-listed for the 2019 Fiction Award.  A brother and sister are orphaned in an isolated cove on Newfoundland's northern coastline. Their home is a stretch of rocky shore governed by the feral ocean, by a relentless pendulum of abundance and murderous scarcity. Still children with only the barest notion of the outside world, they have nothing but the family's boat and the little knowledge passed on haphazardly by their mother and father to keep them. As they fight for their own survival through years of meagre catches and storms and ravaging illness, it is their fierce loyalty to each other that motivates and sustains them. But as seasons pass and they wade deeper into the mystery of their own natures, even that loyalty will be tested.

Miller, K. D.
Late breaking

Short-listed for the 2019 Fiction Award.  A collection of linked short stories inspired by the paintings of Alex Colville. Each character appears in at least two of the stories, in a greater or lesser role. The most common link is a ghost who directly or indirectly "haunts" the book throughout. There is more than a hint of the uncanny in some of the stories, and a strong whiff of the gothic. At its lightest, this book is dark, reflecting the edgy, distrubing quality found in much of Alex Colville's work.

Fagan, Cary.
The student

Short-listed for the 2019 Fiction Award.

Walker, Alan
Fryderyk Chopin

Short-listed for the 2019 Non-Fiction Award. "Comprehensive and engaging, and written in highly readable prose, the biography wears its scholarship lightly: this is a book suited as much for the professional pianist as it is for the casual music lover. Just as he did in his definitive biography of Liszt, Walker illuminates Chopin and his music with unprecedented clarity in this magisterial biography, bringing to life one of the nineteenth century's most confounding, beloved and legendary artists." (from Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

Lewis, Naomi K.
Tiny lights for travellers

Short-listed for the 2019 Non-Fiction Award.

Harvey, Brian J.
Sea trial sailing after my father

Short-listed for the 2019 Non-Fiction Award.  A memoir about a son trying to understand his father, in which marine biologist and author Brian Harvey circumnavigates Vancouver Island with his wife, his dog, and a box of documents that surfaced after his father's death.

Werb, Dan.
City of omens a search for the missing women of the borderlands

Short-listed for the 2019 Non-Fiction Award.