by Meghan Rose Allen
Deep in the heart of Ontario cottage country, Izza Ingram’s biological family disintegrates when her parents become trapped in a moment Izza can barely remember. Lost to their parents, she and her sister Paulie form an unlikely family unit under the guidance of their parents’ friend Doug. In this trio of their own making, Izza, Paulie, and Doug try to navigate the differences between the families we are born into versus the families we choose.
LEFT AT THE LAKE, we’d wait for Doug to take us home. Doug, who had told my mother he would love her as long as the integral of ex equalled ex itself, reassured us with his lopsided grin, slathered us head to heel with a vile, cantaloupe-tinged unguent of calamine lotion, bundled us in beach towels, and strapped us to the front seat of his truck.
“You two ever hear the expression ‘all happy families are alike’?” he’d ask Paulie and me on the long drive back to town. Each time we shook our heads no, this conversation being part of the process, part of the ride. “All this is going to make the two of you something special,” Doug told us. “All this is going to make the two of you extraordinary.”
FOUR MINUTES YET YEARS Apart. Underneath the bold newspaper headline sat a grainy, ridiculous picture of us and two nurses, each holding a clock and a calendar. Isabel Elisabeth Ingram, born 11:59 p.m. on December 31, Pauletta Marie at 12:03 a.m. the next day. Forever separated by two hundred and forty seconds of the clock. Further removed by the Kawartha Separate School Board.
“They can’t both go,” a secretary told my mother the first day of kindergarten. “That one doesn’t make the cut-off.” She pointed towards me even though she meant Paulie. “They gotta be five by December thirty-first. She’s not five until January.”
We stood in the office, awkward in the same way we’d been during my mother’s surprise pregnancy with Michael. A year before, we didn’t know how we would manoeuvre around each other’s bodies as a family of five, didn’t know how quickly our time as a family of five would pass. Gone without any physical marker but our new-found inability to return to functioning as the Ingram quartet.
And as we stood there did my mother try to convince her? Did she argue, make a fuss, wave the stamped and approved registration forms in the secretary’s face? Did the unmalleable secretary wheel her chair back to get further away from us, worried that we were contagious, that our bad luck was a disease easily caught by being in close quarters with us? There’s a blank spot in my memory, like an aura of a migraine in my head.
“If I make an exception for you, then everyone will know,” the secretary told us, her voice shrill and clipped. “It wouldn’t be fair to the other children.” There wasn’t another child in the catchment with a January birthday for five years on either side; we’d be long forgotten by the time a similar situation could present itself. But the secretary, convinced of our guilt, was punishing our parents by punishing me and Paulie instead.
As I waved out the classroom window, Paulie didn’t wave back. She stared at me, dragged her unwilling feet back home, and waited for another year.
“The Peterborough Examiner?” Nuala asked me upon seeing the clipping, magnet-affixed to my parents’ refrigerator. “Isn’t that Robertson Davies’s paper?”
“Yeah, like in the fifties. Worst editor the Examiner ever had.”
“Really?” She looked puzzled.
“Sure, ask anyone around here,” I told her. “It’s a known Kawartha fact.”
I RENAMED MYSELF MICHAEL in an attempt to change the narrative of my parents’ lives. I joined groups and went to the clinic, but “They don’t think you belong here,” a nurse explained when my quotidian appointment was cancelled. “You don’t fit the profile.”
Nuala was on the street corner outside as I tried to buy hormone injections, giving illegal clean needles to junkies who shopped the corner block too. Like I was a kitten, she took me home and I gave up pretending. I went back to being Izza, identical twin sister to Paulie, older sister to Michael, long deceased.
about the author
MEGHAN ROSE ALLEN has been a fiction writer her entire life, although until recently she has spent more time writing and reviewing scientific articles than having anything to do with fiction. Perhaps one day she will quit her day job and write full-time. Meghan received a Ph.D. in mathematics from Dalhousie University and she currently resides in Ottawa.
by this author
June's mother is getting married and there's nothing June can do about it. Counting down the days to the wedding while trapped with a sort-of friend and unwanted family-to-be at their lakeside cottage in the Kawarthas, June searches desperately for a way to make the world - and her life - stand still.
from the library
This Is a Love Crime
by Lee Kvern
Marta is a human resources employee at a grocery store chain. She moves through the days passively, always taking the path of least resistance, until a case at work - that of a hijab-wearing woman, in defiance of a strict no-hats policy - awakens her to the injustices of her own life.
“This Is a Love Crime by Lee Kvern is a cunning and intensely human look at one of the central issues of our time. It negotiates the space between belief, racism, liberty, and sexuality with curiosity and compassion.”
— Todd Babiak, bestselling author of Toby: A Man and The Garneau Block
“Lee Kvern paints with a scalpel. With characteristic unflinching honesty, she peels the relationship between Marta and Corbin back to quivering nerves in This Is a Love Crime and juxtaposes it against veiled assumptions about cultural oppression. The narrative leaps crackle with energy and empathy. When I read Kvern’s stories, I’m seduced by exquisite detail and—love or loathe them—left with the scent of her characters long after the last page.”
— Betty Jane Hegerat, author of Delivery and The Boy
“In This Is a Love Crime, Lee Kvern uses the intricately drawn characters of Corbin and Marta to explore the charged topics of ethnicity and Western modes of submission and control. Written in Kvern’s distinctive, poetic, and multi-layered style, the story leaves us with warm insight into all the characters—and challenges our hearts and preconceptions.”
— Barb Howard, author of Whipstock, Notes for Monday, and The Dewpoint Show
by Caroline Adderson
Coming out of an unhappy relationship and a stint at an artist colony, Charlotte, a writer, takes a job teaching at a private ESL college. There she befriends Renata—audacious, sexy, and as changeable as Proteus. “I have a story for you,” Renata says to her one day over lunch. She doesn’t elaborate further, but Charlotte soon discovers that she has found in Renata an unexpectedly passionate and compelling subject.
“Caroline Adderson is such a graceful and intelligent writer that the work that must surely go into creating her hilarious, prismatic stories is never betrayed in the language. There is no strain on the page, not a bead of sweat. I think of her as a writer’s writer. I envy her talent and learn from her sentences. The short story, Obscure Objects, is, I’m happy to report, Adderson at her glorious best.”
— Barbara Gowdy, author of Helpless and The White Bone
“Obscure Objects, Caroline Adderson’s fierce and affecting workplace comedy, is a deadpan gem: droll, moving, snapping-smart.”
— Meg Wolitzer, author of The Uncoupling, The Ten-Year Nap, and The Position
Portraits of people marooned within themselves, trapped by their past experiences, by uncertainty and anxiety — individuals for whom each new situation is a grueling journey towards the present, a place where action and choice are possible. In Second World, Matt Cahill illustrates, with honesty and empathy, how the most important breakthroughs are not the life-altering revelations, but rather the minor miracles that get us through each day.
After twenty years of running, Betty quietly returns to her hometown of Arbford, thinking it a solid place to finally put down some roots. But the adage 'you can't go home again' proves true, as Betty finds that her mere presence is more than enough to disrupt the stagnant lives of everyone around her.
“In this cautionary suburban fairy tale, a big-city refugee searching for home finds herself in a nest of multiple Mikes and Pyrex-wielding vipers. With enchanting style and snort-causing wit, Grace O’Connell does casserole-studded claustrophobia like nobody’s business.”
— Jessica Westhead, author of And Also Sharks and Pulpy & Midge
A recruiter for a Division I college basketball team travels to a town in hopes of finally convincing the year's prize high school prospect to play for his team. Over several days, he reflects on his love of the sport, his respect for the kids, and a job that forces him to sweep sentiment aside in order to get results.
“Andrew Forbes' The Gamechanger is a powerful work from a point-of-view — that of the scout, the talent evaluator — which is not often seen or done convincingly, as it is here. A story about fathers and sons, about fate, and about the implicit savageries that lurk at the heart of the sports we love and the teams we cheer for. This is wonderful, raw writing.”
— Craig Davidson, author of Rust and Bone and Cataract City
“A fascinating look at the relationships a recruiter has to manage, from the sacrifices of being away from their family, to dealing with rival recruiters, prospects and their friends and family ... a very nuanced and layered approach that goes beyond just a man with a job to do at a gym.”
— Alex Wong, stevenlebron.com
In this unexpectedly dark character study, Jessica Westhead puts you in the shoes of an apprentice forced to listen to a seasoned wedding DJ as he lectures on the tricks of the trade. Emboldened by the captivity of his audience, the DJ's 'humorous' observations and grievances claw deeper and deeper, betraying ugliness at the core.
“In the still-frothing wake of And Also Sharks, here’s another sadly hilarious and hilariously sad Jessica Westhead story with bite. The self-deluding wedding DJ in The Lesson is a perfect addition to Westhead’s bent gallery of sympathetic sad sacks blustering their way through work and love ever after.”
— Zsuzsi Gartner, author of All the Anxious Girls on Earth and the 2011 Giller Prize–shortlisted Better Living Through Plastic Explosives
A small-time internet scammer is shaken from her somewhat safe new life when an investigator arrives with questions to do with her erstwhile "period of moral decline" — specifically, the whereabouts of a young woman whose brief, bright friendship nearly steered her from the stability she now craves.
by Pauline Holdstock
Inspired by true events, this story by Scotiabank Giller Prize-nominated author Pauline Holdstock tells of the incredible bond between a mother and daughter, and with gut-wrenching poignancy reminds us of the little things that make life worth living.
“Hers is the kind of prose you get lost in.”
— National Post on The Hunter and the Wild Girl
“Holdstock’s writing manages to be both heartbreakingly poetic and densely detailed ... sad passages, ghostlike recollections, written almost from the vantage point of the present, establish the book as a great work of fiction.”
— The Globe and Mail on Into the Heart of the Country, longlisted for the 2011 Scotiabank Giller Prize
“Holdstock, with a few deft strokes, pulls the reader into the tumultuous life of an alluring rabble of characters: painters, sculptors, patrons, fools, and slaves ... In Beyond Measure, she proves herself a master of pacing. Her lively, macabre plot trips lightly along in spite of its dark elements.”
— The Globe and Mail on Beyond Measure, finalist for the 2004 Giller Prize and the 2004 Commonwealth Writers' Prize