by Seyward Goodhand
The depredations of a corrupt local government and the ravages of a harsh prairie winter force an ostracized but self-sufficient widow to open her home to innocents with nowhere else to turn. Journey Prize finalist Seyward Goodhand's effortless storytelling allows the humanity to shine through in this grim take on a classic tale.
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I BECAME GUARDIAN OF the Wiebe’s toddler, Katie, right before the war, in the heart of the prairies. It’s a sore, red, infected-looking mouth she’s got, one that in my moments of lift I imagine contains the terror of her family’s end like she’d gobbled it up only for she couldn’t help it, the little witch. Small as it is, it’s a mouth I have to feed.
By the time she came to me, my husband, Derek Pifer, was dead for three years. He’d fallen down a well off in the back sixty and I hadn’t gone to look for him on account of he sometimes did go for days to auction without telling me — he liked to torture me this way, imagine me trapped by worry and impotence. Me who didn’t get an allowance more than exactly what I needed to keep the house running and who couldn’t go to the bank and make a withdrawal without Derek’s co-signature. Not in our town, anyway. We followed Company rules. Fight and fret him all you want, push him down the stairs, skip his meals, swell up before him in a squall of indignation while he sits at the kitchen table hanging his head and afraid — there is no proving you’re his match, Wife, when the facts of the world are against you.
Oh, sure. I did take away that well cover. Years before he fell down it, though, so by the time he did fall I’d forgotten. Still, you can take away a well cover but you can’t make a man walk to exactly the place on the whole two hundred acres where there’s a pit. That was grace delivered me. Then the farm was mine, and suddenly I could go to the bank myself. I know it’s said: how to control a man, give him a plot of land to defend. This might have been true of me, too, were it not such a hopeless time already. I never quite believed the house might not be taken from me at any moment, didn’t feel at home in it on account of it was Derek’s inheritance, really. It was somehow thin for a house, just like he’d been thin. In any case, owning this home has not made me compliant.
By then the Company had already been coming more regular to check on our yields of corn and wheat. They weren’t yet interested in the acre of vegetables we all grew to eat and sell at market on the weekends, really it amounted to trade, all that selling and buying, zucchini for tomatoes, beans for mushrooms, broccoli for cauliflower. We all grew potatoes, onions and cabbage, but we brought them to market anyway for the city people. They’d sit on these old sawhorses around the barrel of fire Rolf Wiebe used to roast corn, playing at country on their harmonicas. What is it like to be them, I’ve always yearned to know. To walk down a sidewalk dressed in the armour of fashion, into a place where I had cause to go and others were expecting me, and I knew exactly what I needed to do and was good at it?
When the Company did take an interest in counting our vegetable yields, we got new contracts we all had to sign — or we didn’t have to, but it was illegal to sell to anyone but them. The weekend markets stopped and what became of the city people I’ll never know. I suppose some of them became the migrants who started coming through. Then children — released into the wilds, at first with something like benevolence, for it was summer — came travelling in their pup packs, ransacking our orchards and berry patches, stealing the odd chicken and bringing it back to the eldest of them who’d set up a sort of camp among the poplars, over in Mustard Woods. We’d all tacitly agreed not to shoot the little scamps, hoping things might rectify themselves when winter came, though people did grumble about their missing stock.
We told ourselves, at the end of the season, come harvest, there’d be some for us to keep just like there’d always been. True, we hadn’t seen that number drawn up in our contracts, but the Company wanted farmers, didn’t it? It wasn’t good business to have all your workers up and die, we said with a degree of self-importance. I suppose living on the prairies we didn’t know how full the world was elsewhere, didn’t share the general population’s dim, panicky impulse to purge itself. No, we were people who conserved, who stocked up. We had no idea how replaceable we were.
about the author
from the library
A woman wakes up in bed beside her ex-boyfriend and is at loss to explain how she got there. Inexplicably drawn to stay, she scours every square inch of the apartment they used to share, noting the traces of her presence that linger on, as well as the empty spots that conspicuously mark her absence. The deeper she digs, the more she understands how imperfect her relationship was – and the less willing she is to come up for air.
Steve has his own comic book store, a limitless supply of comic books, and all the time in the world to collect them. That should be enough. But eventually, everyone - even Steve - gets lonely. And when his time comes, he too has to learn that (eternal) life isn’t about what you spend it on - it’s about who you spend it with.
“Every time I read something by Kirsty, I think, ‘Damn her, I wish I’d written that.’ She is the kind of writer that you can’t help but read with teeth-crunching envy, broken-hearted admiration, and a realization that your own work is not half as good as you’d hoped it might be. Be forewarned writers and readers: you will never be the same.”
— Shanna Germain, finalist for the 2010 John Preston Short Fiction Award and nominee for the 2008 Pushcart Prize
After undergoing a cosmetic treatment to recover her lost youth, a middle-aged woman finds herself reconnected to her alienated daughter - a young woman still searching for her own path in life - in an unexpected and incredible way. A modern-day fable from two-time Scotiabank Giller Prize nominee Pauline Holdstock.
“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
Catherine wants what Richard has: a richly decorated house, and a perfect, lavished-upon baby. Catherine also wants Richard: a disaffected diplomat whose true passion is for cinema. But Catherine is only the babysitter, and her envy—and its fallout—come to the fore when Richard is accused of a crime, and she must decide whether to help exonerate him.
“Laure Baudot’s prose is exquisite, patient, and sophisticated. In the Afternoon immerses you in the fascinating and complicated mind of a babysitter who is wise beyond her years, yet dangerously impulsive at the same time. This story is irresistible and heartbreaking.”
— Sarah Selecky, author of the 2010 Giller Prize–shortlisted collection This Cake Is for the Party
In the rugged Nepisiguit River region of northern New Brunswick, two hunters face off. One is local sports lodge employee Danny Knockwood, a Mi’gmaw guide with a withered hand. The other is Mui’n, a one-eared black bear battling his inexorable hunger. When Danny is charged by the lodge owner to hunt down the bear that is frightening guests at the salmon pools, his personal values come into sharp conflict with his commitment to the task. The resulting confrontation tests both his physical strength and his beliefs, as Danny begins to recognize a kindred spirit within the fiercely determined bear.
If You Waited Here, You Would
See Almost Everything
by Danny Goodman
After Ray collapses on the sidewalk outside a New York coffee shop, the bittersweet vagaries of his long marriage come into focus, one heartbeat at a time. From his new vantage point, flat on his back, all their conflicts are laid out against a canvas of sky, contrasting miscommunications and infidelities against something slower, steadier, and ultimately much vaster than he ever realized.
Health care workers on a night out unwind, allowing the anxieties and passions they've had to suppress on the job finally uncoil, like tendrils creeping out into the world - and into each other. Written with empathy and panache, this story is a portrait of briefly flaring humanity - of people granted a temporary reprieve from professionalism, and not quite knowing what to do with it.
“At the Bar is Rosenblum at her best - exploring the complicated nature of work and relationships with her trademark perceptiveness, humour, and compassion, and creating characters that will stay with you long after the story is over.”
— Amy Jones, author of What Boys Like and Other Stories
Charlotte is on the cusp of adolescence, and her world is being turned upside down. Unable to turn to her distant mother or absent father, she searches for guidance on the streets of downtown Toronto—and discovers God (or some version of Him) in the gutter.
“The Last Judgment is a story that penetrates into the heart of childhood sadness. Charlotte is without tools to fix what is broken, except for the incredible force of her will. The connections she makes between religion, parental failure, sexuality, and love make perfect sense because they are told in her bell-clear voice. This story is warm and tragic and, at moments, grimly funny.”
— Rebecca Rosenblum, author of Once and Road Trips