Holiday Recommendations: Day Three

If gift-buying stress is getting you down, we’re here for you with three more recommendations for the readers in your life. Read on, and get thee to a bookstore!

Bronte’s Pick: Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi (Grove/Atlantic, 9780802127358)

Perfect for: lovers of international literature and dramatic reads

One of the most anticipated and best reviewed novels of 2018, Freshwater is the remarkable debut novel from Emezi, an Igbo and Tamil writer who won the 2017 Commonwealth Short Story Prize for Africa.

This is the story of Ada, who, even as an infant in southern Nigeria, is unusual. Her parents successfully prayed her into existence, but something must have gone awry, as young Ada becomes a troubled child, prone to violent fits of anger and grief. Born “with one foot on the other side,” she begins to develop separate selves. When Ada travels to America for college, a traumatic event crystallizes the selves into something more powerful. As Ada fades into the background of her own mind and these alters – now protective, now hedonistic – move into control, Ada’s life spirals in a dangerous direction. Unsettling, heart-wrenching, dark, and powerful, Freshwater dazzles with ferocious energy and serpentine grace. It’s an entrancing read that you’ll be glad you picked up.

Margot’s Pick: Sal by Mick Kitson (Canongate, 9781786891877)

Perfect for: fans of stories about sisters and survival

Sal is a special book which became an instant favourite within the Martin and Associates, Publishers Group Canada, and Publishers Group West offices. 

This is the story of a young girl, Sal, who takes action to save herself and her younger sister from the threats facing them at home. Sal researches for a year before she and her ten year old sister, Peppa, venture into the wilds of Scotland to fend for themselves, but she can’t anticipate everything. They encounter unexpected hardship and doubt, but their fierce love and the kindness of strangers helps them carry on. Told in Sal’s distinctive voice, and filled with the silent, dizzying beauty of rural Scotland, Sal is a disturbing, uplifting story of survival and the irrepressible power of sisterly love; a love that can lead us to do extraordinary things. If you’re anything like us, you’ll love these smart, kick-ass sisters, and the gentle ending of this inspiring story. 

Michael’s pick: Copyboy by Vince Vawter (Capstone, 9781630781056)

Perfect for: YA readers, those who love coming-of-age stories

A sequel to Vawter’s Newberry Honor Book, Paperboy. The story picks up six years later: Victor is now 17, and his good friend and mentor Constantine Spiro has just died. Mr Spiro’s dying wish is that Victor spreads his ashes at the mouth of the Mississippi River. This is a wonderful coming of age story set in the summer of 1965. Victor faces the challenges in his life head on—like a true literary hero—strengthened by a resolve formed from dealing with a speech impediment, and the struggles of a home life with a domineering mother and distant step-father. He matures before the reader’s eyes, making real-life decision that many teenagers face (like where to study after high school), fighting for independence from his parents, and struggling with his sexual awakening.

Vince Vawter wrote these novels in the first person, the storylines mirroring his own childhood and odyssey to manhood. Like the character he created, Vawter struggled with a stutter that lingered into adulthood. The journey Victor makes along the backroads from Memphis to New Orleans is one that he can only do himself. It sends him hundreds of miles from home toward the teeth of a gathering storm. Confronted by an unfamiliar and threatening world, he meets a girl who is strong and smart, and together they venture to where the river meets the sea. Hurricane Betsy fits into the plot and is extensively described with historical accuracy. It was a Category 4 storm that killed more than 80 people, and the first hurricane in US history to cause damages of over one billion dollars.

Vawter honed his skill as a storyteller working for years in the newspaper business, and Victor’s authentic voice as the narrator allows the reader to easily follow and relate the plot line. The best compliment for a young adult novel is that it’s structure and character development will keep any aged reader highly entertained.     

Stay tuned for our next three picks!

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