The Betrayers by David Bezmozgis
These incandescent pages give us one momentous day in the life of Baruch Kotler, a disgraced Israeli politician. When he refuses to back down from a contrary but principled stand regarding the West Bank settlements, his political opponents expose his affair with a mistress decades his junior. He and the fierce young Leora flee the scandal for Yalta, where he comes face to face with the former friend who denounced him to the KGB almost forty years earlier. In a mere twenty-four hours, Kotler must face the ultimate reckoning, both with those who have betrayed him and with those whom he has betrayed, including a teenage daughter, a son facing his own ethical dilemmas in the Israeli army, and the wife who stood by his side through so much. In prose that is elegant, sly, precise and devastating, David Bezmozgis has rendered a story for the ages, an inquest into the nature of fate and consequence, love and forgiveness.
Tell by Frances Itani
The bestselling author of the award-winning international sensation Deafening returns to the period following the First World War with a tour de force-an extraordinary novel of secrets withheld and secrets revealed. In 1919, only months after the end of the Great War, the men and women of Deseronto struggle to recover from wounds of the past, both visible and hidden. Kenan, a young soldier who has returned from the war damaged and disfigured, confines himself to his small house on the Bay of Quinte, wandering outside only under the cover of night. His wife, Tress, attempting to adjust to the trauma that overwhelms her husband and which has changed their marriage, seeks advice from her Aunt Maggie. Maggie, along with her husband, Am, who cares for the town clock tower, have their own sorrows, which lie unacknowledged between them. Maggie finds joy in her friendship with a local widow and in the Choral Society started by Lukas, a Music Director who has moved to the town from an unknown place in war-torn Europe. While rehearsing and performing, Maggie rediscovers a part of herself that she had long set aside. As the decade draws to a close and the lives of these beautifully-drawn characters become more entwined, each of them must decide what to share and what to hide, and how their actions will lead them into the future. With the narrative power and writerly grace for which she is celebrated, Frances Itani has crafted a deeply moving, emotionally rich story about the burdens of the past. She shows us how, ultimately, the very secrets we bury to protect ourselves can also be the cause of our undoing. Tell is stunning achievement.
Us Conductors by Sean Michaels
Us Conductors is a beautiful, haunting, brilliant novel inspired by the true life and loves of the Russian scientist, inventor and spy Lev Termen--creator of the theremin. In a finely woven series of flashbacks and correspondence, Us Conductors takes us from the glitz and glam of New York in the 1930s to the gulags and scientific camps of the Soviet Union. Lev Termen is imprisoned on a ship steaming its way from New York City to the Soviet Union. He is writing a letter to his "one true love," Clara Rockmore, the finest theremin player in the world. From there we learn Termen's story: his early days as a scientist in Leningrad, and the acclaim he received as the inventor of the theremin, eventually coming to New York under the aegis of the Russian state. There he stays, teaching eager music students, making his name, and swiftly falling in love with Clara. But it isn't long until he has fallen in with Russian spooks, slipping through the shadows of a budding Cold War, with cold-blooded results. The novel builds to a crescendo as Termen returns to Russia, where he is imprisoned in a Siberian gulag and later brought to Moscow, tasked with eavesdropping on Stalin himself. Us Conductors is a book of longing and electricity. Like Termen's own life, it is steeped in beauty, wonder and looping heartbreak. How strong is unrequited love? What does it mean when it is the only thing keeping you alive? This sublime debut inhabits the idea of invention on every level, no more so than in its depiction of Termen's endless feelings for Clara--against every realistic odd. For what else is love, but the greatest invention of all?
The Girl who was Saturday night by Heather O'Neill
A coming-of-age novel set on the seedy side of Montreal's St. Laurent Boulevard Gorgeous twins Noushcka and Nicolas Tremblay live with their grandfather Loulou in a tiny, sordid apartment on St. Laurent Boulevard. They are hopelessly promiscuous, wildly funny and infectiously charming. They are also the only children of the legendary Québécois folksinger Étienne Tremblay, who was as famous for his brilliant lyrics about working-class life as he was for his philandering bon vivant lifestyle and his fall from grace. Known by the public since they were children as Little Noushcka and Little Nicolas, the two inseparable siblings have never been allowed to be ordinary. On the eve of their twentieth birthday, the twins' self-destructive shenanigans catch up with them when Noushcka agrees to be beauty queen in the local St. Jean Baptiste Day parade. The media spotlight returns, and the attention of a relentless journalist exposes the cracks in the family's relationships. Though Noushcka tries to leave her family behind, for better or worse, Noushcka is a Tremblay, and when tragedy strikes, home is the only place she wants to be. With all the wit and poignancy that made Baby such a beloved character in Lullabies for Little Criminals , O'Neill writes of an unusual family and what binds them together and tears them apart. The Girl Who Was Saturday Night is classic, unforgettable Heather O'Neill.
All my puny sorrows by Miriam Toews
Miriam Toews is beloved for her irresistible voice, for mingling laughter and heartwrenching poignancy like no other writer. In her most passionate novel yet, she brings us the riveting story of two sisters, and a love that illuminates life. You won't forget Elf and Yoli, two smart and loving sisters. Elfrieda, a world-renowned pianist, glamorous, wealthy, happily married: she wants to die. Yolandi, divorced, broke, sleeping with the wrong men as she tries to find true love: she desperately wants to keep her older sister alive. Yoli is a beguiling mess, wickedly funny even as she stumbles through life struggling to keep her teenage kids and mother happy, her exes from hating her, her sister from killing herself and her own heart from breaking. But Elf's latest suicide attempt is a shock: she is three weeks away from the opening of her highly anticipated international tour. Her long-time agent has been calling and neither Yoli nor Elf's loving husband knows what to tell him. Can she be nursed back to "health" in time? Does it matter? As the situation becomes ever more complicated, Yoli faces the most terrifying decision of her life. All My Puny Sorrows , at once tender and unquiet, offers a profound reflection on the limits of love, and the sometimes unimaginable challenges we experience when childhood becomes a new country of adult commitments and responsibilities. In her beautifully rendered new novel, Miriam Toews gives us a startling demonstration of how to carry on with hope and love and the business of living even when grief loads the heart.
The ever after of Ashwin Rao by Padma Viswanathan
A stunning new work set among families of those who lost loved ones in the 1985 Air India bombing, registering the unexpected reverberations of this tragedy in the lives of its survivors. A book of post-9/11 Canada, The Ever After of Ashwin Rao demonstrates that violent politics are all-too-often homegrown in North America but ignored at our peril. In 2004, almost 20 years after the fatal bombing of an Air India flight from Vancouver, 2 suspects--finally--are on trial for the crime. Ashwin Rao, an Indian psychologist trained in Canada, comes back to do a "study of comparative grief," interviewing people who lost loved one in the attack. What he neglects to mention is that he, too, had family members who died on the plane. Then, to his delight and fear, he becomes embroiled in the lives of one family caught in the undertow of the tragedy, and privy to their secrets. This surprising emotional connection sparks him to confront his own losses. The Ever After of Ashwin Rao imagines the lasting emotional and political consequences of a real-life act of terror, confronting what we might learn to live with and what we can live without.
You have until November 10th until the winner is crowned. Read as many as you can before the winner is announced and see if you agree with the jury!