BY SOUTHGREY.CA STAFF — Five Canadian-authored books have been selected for the 2020 Grey County Reads contest to begin in January. The impressive list of literary works was whittled down from a variety of fiction and non-fiction options submitted Grey County Public Libraries across seven communities. Each book is readily available at all branches, so you might want to get a head start on borrowing one of these titles over the next few months, if you want to play along.
Dance of the Happy Shades by Alice Munro
You might not be aware that celebrated Canadian author Alice Munroe actually grew up in Wingham, Ontario. Although she currently resides in Port Hope, her 1968 classic Dance of the Happy Shades brings the familiar countryside of Huron County to bear. In this collection of stories, the deceptive calm of small-town life is brought memorably to the page, revealing many small sufferings and unanticipated emotions. A master of the short story, Munroe received the 2013 Nobel Prize in Literature for the body of her work. Her first short story collection, Dance of the Happy Shades was the winner of the Governor General's Award for Fiction. Not too shabby!
Dance of the Happy Shades will be advocated by John Tamming of John Tamming Law.
Open up the Wall by Geoff Bowes
Another local celebrity, former thespian Geoff Bowes made his home in many other parts before finally settling on a farm near Markdale, Ontario. A veteran performer of stage and screen across North America, you might think that his acting experience carried very few crossover skills into an unlikely second career as a carpenter. But Geoff's drama background made him keenly aware of the characters he encountered, inspiring him to write about them. The result is a hilarious exposé of the trades and his own foibles as he learned about construction and how to think on both sides of the toolbelt.
Open up the Wall will be advocated by Robert Iantorno of South Grey Museum.
Empire of Wild by Cherie Dimaline
Like all of the authors in this edition of Grey County Reads, Cherie Dimaline has a local connection, hailing from the Métis community of Georgian Bay. Her young adult novel The Marrow Thieves shot to the top of the bestseller lists when it was published in 2017, and stayed there for more than a year. Awards and accolades poured over her thereafter. Cherie was named Emerging Artist of the Year at the Ontario Premier's Awards for Excellence in the Arts in 2014.
In Empire of Wild, a broken-hearted woman finds a charasmatic preacher who strongly resembles her long-lost husband Victor. Although he has the same face, eyes and hands, his hair is short and he's wearing a suit. Despite her claim that he is her husband, he insists that he is the Reverend Wolff and his only mission is to bring his people to Jesus. But Joan soon discovers that's not all the enigmatic Wolff is doing. With only the help of Ajean, a foul-mouthed euchre shark who has a knowledge of the old ways, and her odd, Johnny-Cash-loving, 12-year-old nephew Zeus, she has to find a way to remind the Reverend Wolff of who he really is. Her life, and the life of everyone she loves, depends upon it.
Empire of Wild will be advocated by Kimberley Edwards of the Grey Bruce Sustainability Network.
To the River by Don Gillmor
Recent winner of the Governor General’s Literary Award for Non-fiction, To the River is an eloquent and haunting exploration of suicide in which one of Canada's most gifted writers attempts to understand why his brother took his own life. The quest leads him to another powerful question: Why are boomers killing themselves at a far greater rate than the Silent Generation before them or any of the generations that have followed? Reconstructing the last days of his life, Gillmor explores many theories about his brother’s disappearance but the author’s journey ends in an act of remembrance and mourning.
To the River will be advocated by journalist, editor, communications advisor and recent Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound Liberal MP candidate Michael Den Tandt.
Midnight at the Dragon Café by Judy Fong Bates
Judy Fong Bates came to Canada from China as a young girl and grew up in several small Ontario towns. Today, she lives in Toronto.
Set in the 1960s, Judy Fong Bates’s much-talked-about debut novel is the story of a young girl, the daughter of a small Ontario town’s solitary Chinese family, whose life is changed over the course of one summer when she learns the burden of secrets. Through Su-Jen’s eyes, the hard life behind the scenes at the Dragon Café unfolds. As Su-Jen’s father works continually for a better future, her mother, a beautiful but embittered woman, settles uneasily into their new life. Su-Jen feels the weight of her mother’s unhappiness as Su-Jen’s life takes her outside the restaurant and far from the customs of the traditional past. When Su-Jen’s half-brother arrives, smouldering under the responsibilities he must bear as the dutiful Chinese son, he forms an alliance with Su-Jen’s mother, one that will have devastating consequences. Written in spare, intimate prose, Midnight at the Dragon Café is a vivid portrait of a childhood divided by two cultures and touched by unfulfilled longings and unspoken secrets.
Midnight at the Dragon Café will be advocated by author, poet and Kemble-Sarawak United Church Minister Cathy Hird.
Grey County Reads begins in January when each of the five local celebrity advocates make their case for these Canadian-authored works. In February, readers will vote on their favourite and following weekly playoff rounds, only one book will remain as the winner. Three lucky voters will also win books from the Speaking Volumes Books and Audio and a local community library will take away $200 worth of books too.
To read more about the contest, visit www.southgreynews.ca/grey-county-reads