Note from Amazon.ca

W.P. Kinsella, the shortlist judge for this year's Amazon.ca/Books in Canada First Novel Award, calls this a very strong year for debuts, and we agree. From Joseph Boyden, whose bestselling Three Day Road recently picked up the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize, and Anne Giardini, nominated for The Sad Truth About Happiness 30 years after her mother, Carol Shields, was nominated for Small Ceremonies, to Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer, for her imaginative bush-country fable, The Nettle Spinner, the nominees come from large presses and small, and call places from Salt Spring Island to Montreal home. We congratulate all the nominees, including B. Glen Rotchin, Howard Akler, and Brenda Brooks, and hope that you'll take the time to read them and choose your favorites while the judges' panel is doing the same.
Kinsella began selecting the shortlist for the Amazon.ca/Books in Canada First Novel Award in 2001 (18 years after he won the award himself for Shoeless Joe), and for the last five years we've been impressed by the range and quality of his choices (and we don't think we've seen a single minced word the whole time). Many thanks to him for his help in bringing these books to notice, and to Olga Stein as well for letting us be a part of these five years of excellent new Canadian fiction. Kinsella's moving on, but we're not, and we look forward to many more years of sharing great books like these-not to mention the millions of others available every day on Amazon.ca-with our customers.
Patrick Bowman
Manager, Amazon.ca
Tom Nissley
Books Editor, Amazon.ca


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Gotta Find Me an Angel
by Brenda Brooks
Raincoast Books,
$29.95, 219 pages,
ISBN: 1551927179

This is a lively novel about lesbian relationships in which the words gay and lesbian do not appear. This lack of sexual identity propaganda is refreshing. The heroine is in her mid-thirties and still grieving the loss of her first love, a girl named Madeline, whose spirit visits one dark night. Sadness is often dispelled with humour, and character descriptions are sometimes laugh-out-loud funny, like fiona perks, the lower-case novelist, described as "the songstress of her own mind." There is a continuous send-up of the catty literary community, full of wonderful literary parties, where snarkiness is honed to a new level of ferocity. This novel is full of very memorable characters.

The City Man
by Howard Akler
Coach House Press,
$18.95, 154 pages,
ISBN: 1552451585

There isn't a wasted word in this wonderful depiction of Depression-era Toronto. Eli is a reporter who has just returned from a medical leave of absence. After meeting Mona, he becomes interested in the Jewish underworld of Toronto and the pickpockets who work Union Station.

Mona is a stall who slows down a potential victim so that her partner, Chesler, known as 'cannon', can pick his pocket. Eli and Mona begin a romance, which all of her friends predict will end badly. Using Mona as an anonymous informant, Eli writes articles that capture the imagination of readers, and spark the interest of the police. The vernacular of the professional pickpocket is given in precise detail. Reading this book is like attending a black and white period movie, perhaps one of the Thin Man series, where sly tough guys abound, and the "dame" is smart, glamorous and dangerous.

The Sad Truth About Happiness
by Anne Giardini
$29.95, 280 pages,
ISBN: 0002005948

Giardini, the daughter of CanLit icon Carol Shields, presents a truly delightful novel about the endless lifetime entanglements of family loyalty and love. Maggie, a thirtyish radiation technologist in Toronto, is independent, between relationships, and has an inquisitive mind.Her roommate Rebecca, who devises quizzes for magazines, comes up with one she is sure can predict the date of a person's death, if they answer honestly.
Maggie takes the quiz several times, and each result predicts her death before her next birthday. It seems that Maggie must become much happier in her remaining months or the prediction will come true. Complications arise when Maggie's younger sister Lucy returns from a job in Italy, pregnant and distraught that her married Italian lover has abandoned her. But her wealthy lover and his wife appear soon after she gives birth, seeking custody. Maggie snatches the baby and goes on the lam with the new born. How all the problems work out including Maggie finding a possible life partner, is best left unexplained. The cast of characters is fabulous, the writing brilliant, the story quirky with just the perfect number of twists.

Three Day Road
by Joseph Boyden
Viking Canada,
$32.00, 351 pages,
ISBN: 0670063622

In 1919, Niska, a Cree medicine woman, ventures into civilization to retrieve one of two boys she reluctantly sent to war. Xavier Bird is a mere shadow of his former self; he has lost a leg, is addicted to morphine, and near death.
The three-day road is a journey between life and death. As Niska paddles her canoe, in an effort to keep Xavier alive she tells him her life story, and Xavier tells of his war exploits as a sniper together with his friend Elija Whiskeyjack. The war scenes are some of the most violent and terrible ever put to the page. Elija reminds the reader of Kurtz in Heart of Darkness. This is an exceptionally fine novel destined for a long productive life.

The Nettle Spinner
by Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer
Goose Lane Editions,
$21.95, 202 pages,
ISBN: 0864924224

This is the story of Alma, a 20-something tree planter working in far northern Ontario.Finding herself pregnant and alone, Alma is drawn to an abandoned mining camp where she meets Jake, a strange little man who is almost blind.Is he a troll, one of Snow White's seven dwarfs in old age, or a figment of her imagination?
Alma relates an ancient folk tale to Jake about a girl from medieval times. The girl is denied permission to marry her sweetheart by a cruel landowner who tells her that if she spins him a nettle shroud, she will be able to marry when he has put it to use. The baby is born, and Alma begins to spin a nettle garment. As Jake becomes weaker, Alma and the baby become stronger. What Alma does not know is that her own courage and determination are about to be tested to the maximum. This is a beautifully conceived novel.

The Rent Collector
byB. Glen Rotchin
Véhicule Press,
$19.85, 221 pages,
ISBN: 1550651951

With a prayer shawl and a cell phone, Orthodox Jew, Gershon Stein spends his days collecting rent in a large, family-owned building in the deteriorating garment district of Montreal. His father is a Holocaust survivor. Gershon studies religion, tries to live a good life, but is buffeted at every turn by devious, cunning tenants. He thinks of the Mitzvot, God's 613 commandments: "God made the world. The Torah is like an owner's manual, and the mitzvot are like His operating instructions, direct from the manufacturer."
Gershon has a mystical experience when he meets a young bookkeeper in the hall of the building, her name is Michelle Labelle, and he sees a mysterious light emanating from her, an aura. This troubles him greatly until he breaks her name into syllables, which become, "a Hebrew sentence, a precise phrase, crystal clear. A message: Mi shel leib El- 'Who is of God's heart.'" Gershon is not an entirely reliable narrator. Through the eyes of his dying father, we see how Gershon is regarded by the rest of the family. This is a sleeper, wryly funny, deeply moving, unforgettable.