Books

Heidi L. M. Jacobs wins $15K Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour for debut novel

The annual prize honours the best Canadian book of humour of the year. Molly of the Mall is about an aspiring novelist living in Edmonton.
Heidi Jacobs is an author and librarian at the University of Windsor's Leddy Library. (Jolie Inthavong/Supplied)

Heidi L. M. Jacobs has won the 2020 Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour for her novel Molly of the Mall: Literary Lass and Purveyor of Fine Footwear.

The award, worth $15,000, is awarded to the best book of humour each year.

Jacobs is currently the English and history librarian at the University of Windsor. Molly of the Mall is her first book.

The novel tells the story of Molly MacGregor, an aspiring novelist living in Edmonton, who spends much of her time writing university term papers instead of novels and sells shoes in the Largest Mall on Earth. Molly of the Mall explores Molly's love for the written word, romance and her complicated love for her city.

"It's about a young woman who is an English major, and she's got a summer job at a very large shopping mall in Edmonton — which we've left nameless," she told CBC Radio's Afternoon Drive host Chris dela Torre.

"It's basically about her trying to navigate the world she's finding herself in when she's sort of juxtaposing it with the world that she reads about."

A book by a Windsor author is in the running to be named Canada's funniest of the year. We talked to Heidi Jacobs about her novel, "Molly of the Mall: Literary Lass and Purveyor of Fine Footwear." It's been longlisted for this year's Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour. 5:43

A panel of readers and judges from across the country whittled the 84 initial submissions to a longlist of 11, with only three books eventually being selected for the shortlist. 

This year's other finalists were Amy Spurway for her novel Crow and Drew Hayden Taylor, a playwright and novelist, for his play Cottagers and Indians.

They will each receive a $3,000 prize.

Crow  follows a woman diagnosed with three highly unpredictable and inoperable brain tumours, who abandons her life in Toronto to stay in her mother's scruffy trailer in rural Cape Breton and decides to write a memoir.

Taylor's Cottagers and Indians explores the relationship between Indigenous residents and recreational cottagers living on the same lake in the Kawarthas region of Ontario and it's based on a true story that took place in the Kawartha Lakes region of Ontario.

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the medal and cash prizes will be mailed to the recipients.

The three authors will be honoured at next year's gala.

Last year's winner was Cathal Kelly for his memoir Boy Wonder.

Other past winners include Patrick deWitt, Cassie Stocks and Terry Fallis

When you grow up in a town or a city, you can be too close to see it's redeeming qualities and you might fail to see the humour in where you live, the romance. Other places, even other times, seem more compelling, more idealistic. It's those ideas that are at the heart of the novel, "Molly of the Mall - Literary Lass & Purveyor of Fine Footwear" (NeWest Press). The book follows Molly MacGregor as she works a day job at a shoe store in the mall, and on to her university career. The book has found the funny in these places, to the point that it's been shortlisted for the 73rd Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour. To hear more about the book, Russell reached out to its Edmonton-born author, Heidi Jacobs. 9:51

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