It’s Canada’s birthday! Happy Birthday to you, Canada, even if you’re looking a little bit worse for wear.
Canada is 150 years old this year and the celebrations are bound to be fierce, but what matters the most is how odd we Canadians are. Yes, the stereotype is that we’re polite and all we write about is farming, but scratch under the surface and you’ll see that’s dead wrong. Not only are some of the quirkiest novels I’ve ever read written by Canadian authors, but the wide range of subjects is incredible.
I know you’ve got fireworks to see and two-fours to drink, so I’ll keep this brief. If you’re looking for an interesting read that will haunt the edges of your mind long after you’re done, you should check out the books below.
1) The Only Child by Andrew Pyper
I don’t even know where to begin with this. I went in expecting some sort of mystery or family drama and that was exactly what I got, but there’s so much more to it as well. The Only Child feels like peeling back a mystery layer by layer and just as I’m sure the novel can’t get any stranger, Andrew Pyper throws the gauntlet back at me. We follow Lily, a young woman who’s alone in the world, but content with her life. She dreams sometimes about her mother and the night she died, but can’t quite put her finger on how it happened until a man comes into the prison. A man who has no name and who committed a violent crime to get incarcerated here, closer to Lily. At first, Lily is convinced that the man is nothing, but a sophisticated sociopath when he mentions her mother and the night that she died. Now Lily has a choice, go on with her life and pretend she knows nothing or follow this mystery through to the end.
2) Fall on Your Knees by Ann-Marie MacDonald
From one odd family to another, we go to Nova Scotia to spend time with the Piper family. James Piper is determined to have his girls be better than the wife he despises, but there are so many ways that can backfire and even if James tries to shut out the monsters, that won’t work if the monsters are already inside the house. In a novel that is evocative of the magically realistic worlds of Gabriel García Márquez, MacDonald weaves a tale of passion and horror and death, showing us just how much of a hold the demons can have on us. The road to hell is paved with good intentions and MacDonald leads us step by step toward the inevitable answer to our unspoken question: How long will James be able to stop himself from lusting after his daughters?
3) The Cure for Death by Lightning by Gail Anderson-Dargatz
Yes, this is the third novel on this list with a strange family, but maybe that’s just something that Canadian authors write well. I’m unsure. Blending the mysticism of the indigenous people of Canada and the lives of the settlers who were never meant to be in this land, Anderson-Dargatz makes moving forward feel like a dance. Most of the novel feels like catching something strange out of the corner of your eye, something that isn’t there once you’ve turned to face it.
4) Bones of the Coast: Tales of Terror from the Pacific Northwest
A graphic novel horror anthology out of Canada’s west coast, Bones of the Coastt is fascinating. Not only does it advocate for diverse authors, but it truly brought some bone-chilling stories to life. I haven’t enjoyed a horror anthology quite like this one since I read Scary Stories to Tell In the Dark when I was around 10. There’s plenty of weirdness, but one thing I appreciated was that Bones of the Coast didn’t rely on sexual horror. There are too many times when horror (particularly horror movies) will use sexual violence as a crutch, but there’s nothing of the sort within this anthology. Instead there are just some creepy stories that will have you sleeping with the lights on.