We considered more than 80 submissions in the English Fiction category, including poetry and prose for all ages. With such a talented pool of authors in Ottawa, it was difficult to narrow down the finalists to these fabulous five.
David O’Meara’s Masses On Radar, his 5th poetry collection, is quite simply an astonishing book. This is high-voltage poetry, gorgeously written, edited, and arranged, as well as reflective and tender. O’Meara’s poems, his “pantomime of normal”, offer us compelling portraits, both funny and heart-rending, of the poet’s consciousness in middle age. Having the opportunity to read O’Meara’s poems is an enriching and unforgettable experience!
Everyone in This Room Will Someday Be Dead is a striking debut novel — both a page-turner and an impressive literary accomplishment. Emily Austin deftly combines her sharp wit with dark humor in this book grounded in the absurdity of the day-to-day life and mental health struggles of a young atheist lesbian named Gilda who winds up working at a Catholic church. Equal parts hilarious, moving, and timely, we could not get enough of the internal life and musings on death, religion, relationships, and everything in between from Austin’s main character.
The elegiac poems that comprise Jacqueline Bourque’s Repointing the Bricks impressed us with their emotional and philosophical power. Bourque’s elegantly crafted and tuned writing invites readers into the thematic thresholds of “home”—birthed in the saltwater memory of a New Brunswick upbringing and recollected in a rainstorm from the open window of an Ottawa apartment. This is a deeply felt and thought-provoking poetry collection!
Mark Frutkin’s The Artist and the Assassin immerses the reader in Caravaggio’s Rome. Thoroughly researched, well plotted, and beautifully written, this historical novel is a poetic page-turner. Its familiar and strange world is fully realized in lush detail – we walk the streets, mix the paints, and follow the light and darkness of its volatile main characters.
Wayne Ng’s Letters from Johnny is a children’s novel set in downtown Toronto in late 1970. There’s an exciting plot – a national crisis, a neighbourhood murder, a personal betrayal – but it’s the voice of 11-year-old Johnny Wang – so honest and inquisitive and full of longing – that captures the reader’s heart. This is a story we haven’t read before, one whose humour and charm will engage readers of all ages.
What a treat to read these great books and have a small hand in honouring them.