Social Distancing and the looming possibility of total social collapse/ world-wide pandemic/ zombie hoards got you down? Here are three books to thumb through while you wait for the end of the world or a Yukon spring, whichever comes first.
By the way, did you know Yukoner Eva Holland’s debut work of nonfiction, Nerve, a hybrid of memoir and science writing about the nature of fear, is out now with Penguin Random House Canada? Yukon poet Joanna Lilley also has a new book of poetry out, Endings, which focuses on extinct animals out with Turnstone Press. Both books are available for purchase at Mac’s Fireweed Books on Main Street.
Local writer (and What’s Up Yukon’s amazing copy editor) is also at the Jenni House Artist Residency in Shipyard’s Park till the end of April.
Traplines by Eden Robinson. Vintage Canada, 1996.
Perhaps better known for her best-selling work of magical realism, Son of a Tricker, Haisla and Heiltsuk First Nation writer Eden Robinson’s short story collection Traplines taps into a grittier, more subtle type of magic — loving other people. The stories in this slim volume all revolve, in one way or another, around the dangerous and beautiful ways in which love, especially familial love can both support and destroy us. The story ‘Dogs in Winter,’ which revolves around a daughter whose mother is a serial killer, will haunt you, and ‘Contact Sports’ is so viscerally layered with the complexities of familial love, power dynamics and violence your teeth will ache from gritting them. If you remain unmoved by ‘Queen of the North,’ in which a young girl confronts her abuser, who was himself abused in the residential school system, there is probably something wrong with you. Robinson’s sparse-yet-rich prose is full of dirt, blood and cigarette smoke, so take a deep breath before you dive in.
Kirsten Arnett’s first novel, Mostly Dead Things is as dark as it is funny, a skew-eyed romp through small town Florida. There’s a lot going on in this book; Jessa-Lynn Morton, a hard-drinking working class woman with a heart of gold, becomes the de facto head of her family when she finds her father, the longstanding owner of the family’s taxidermy shop, has shot himself dead, setting in motion a messy chain of grief and unresolved family conflicts which Arnett deftly brings to the surface over time. At the centre of the plot is a decades-old love triangle between Jessa-Lynn, her brother, and the woman they both would have done anything for, but the real heart of this book is about how we learn to let go of the people and places we love — a necessary task if we are to make room for new things. In Mostly Dead Things, this involves arson and murdering a few peacocks, which are not necessarily recommended routes to take.
Depicting a childhood under the thumb of a controlling patriarchy headed first by her bipolar father and then by her manipulative and dangerous old brother in a Mormom community in Idaho, Tara Westover’s debut memoir is impossible to put down. Westover begins the book never having been to school and pulling scrap metal out of the junkyard for her deeply fundamental and extremely mentally unwell father, and finished the book with a PhD in History from Cambridge University. Richly layered with depictions of day to day life living an off-grid, rural existence, it grapples with familial loyalty, mental health and the ways in which we order and shift our realities as we move out of childhood and into adulthood to become fully formed people.