Books

Read excerpts from the 2019 Scotiabank Giller Prize finalists

The $100,000 prize is the richest literary award in Canada. Read from the finalists before the winner is revealed on Nov. 18.
The winner of the $100,000 Scotiabank Giller Prize will be announced on Nov. 18, 2019. (CBC)

Six titles have been shortlisted for the 2019 Scotiabank Giller Prize. The $100,000 prize is the richest Canadian literary award and annually recognizes the country's best fiction. 

The winner will be revealed on Monday, Nov. 18. The ceremony will air on CBC, CBC Radio One and will be livestreamed on CBC BooksYou can get all the broadcast details here.

CBC Books has excerpts from all six of the finalists. Read them before the winner is revealed on Nov. 18.

Immigrant City by David Bezmozgis

Immigrant City is a short story collection by David Bezmozgis. (HarperCollins Canada)

About the book: Immigrant City is a short story collection about the contemporary Canadian immigrant experience. It features stories about a fighter working as a security guard in the Toronto suburbs, a father and daughter who end up in a strange rendition of his immigrant childhood and a young man who unwittingly makes contact with the underworld. 

From the book: I have three daughters. One is a baby. One is seven and prefers to stay at home. One is four and wants to come with me wherever I go, even to the drugstore and the bank. If I don't take her, she cries.

Recently, backing out of a tight parking spot, I damaged the front passenger-side door of our car. I heard the sound of metal against concrete, the sound of self-recrimination, dolour and incalculable expense.

In the aftermath I called my wife, who was born in America and raised in mindless California abundance. For her family, scratching cars and misplacing wallets was like a hobby. I, on the other hand, had been an immigrant child, with all the heartache and superiority that conferred. We ate spotted fruit. I told my wife what I had done; her response was less than sympathetic.

Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward Gun Club by Megan Gail Coles

Megan Gail Coles's debut novel Small Game Hunting At The Local Coward Gun Club is out now. (House of Anansi Press)

About the book: Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward Gun Club revolves around a cast of flawed characters connected to a St. John's restaurant called The Hazel. They are implicated in each other's hopes, dreams and pains as they try to survive harsh economic times in the province. 

From the book: Olive hears the latch squeal before the hinges squeak. A black arm heaves garbage bags onto the sidewalk one after the other. There are so many. More waste than is normal. Food that went off during the previous day's storm is now bagged and tossed out for collectors who will not come until it fully clears. Olive worries the birds will have at it.

Omi will be blamed for the weather's interference in the city schedule if he doesn't re-collect it. Olive wills him to remember so he won't get in trouble. Omi is from Nigeria. Olive thinks he is her age but she can't be sure. She has been trying to figure out how to ask without seeming ignorant or making him angry. She has never seen him angry but is still afraid ignorant questions might jeopardize their friendship. She didn't even know they were friends until he said. One day weeks ago while she was waiting for Iris, he approached her on the sidewalk.

Girl, you okay?

Olive didn't know how to answer this honestly so shook her head.

The Innocents by Michael Crummey

Michael Crummey's new book is called The Innocents. (Doubleday Canada, Holly Hogan)

About the book: In The Innocents, a young brother and sister live in isolation in Newfoundland, surviving alone on the bits of knowledge their parents left behind. Their loyalty to one another is the reason they are able to persist through storms and illness, but their relationship is tested as they grow older.

From the book: They were still youngsters that winter. They lost their baby sister before the first snowfall. Their mother laid the infant in a shallow trough beside the only other grave in the cove and she sang the lullaby she'd sung all her children to sleep with, which was as much as they had to offer of ceremony. The woman was deathly sick herself by then, coughing up clots of blood into her hands.

The ground was frozen solid when she died and even if their father had been well enough to shovel there was no digging a grave for her. He and Evered shifted the covering of reeds and alders away from the overturned boat and hauled it down to the landwash before they carried the corpse from the house. They set it in the boat along with half a dozen stones scavenged along the shore. Their father slumped against the gunwale to catch his breath.

"Will I come out with you?" Evered asked.

He shook his head. "You stay with your sister," he said.

Dual Citizens by Alix Ohlin

Dual Citizens is a novel by Alix Ohlin. (House of Anansi Press)

About the book: In Ohlin's novel Dual Citizens, Lark Brossard is a supporting character in the lives of her artistically talented loved ones: her sister Robin is a wild and brilliant pianist, while her sometime lover Lawrence is a famous filmmaker. When Lawrence tells her he doesn't want children, Lark re-examines her life and takes control of her story.

From the book: The story of Scottie's life — which is, of course, the story of my life too — begins with my sister Robin. It's strange how little we talk about it now. Of the three of us, I'm the only one who dwells on our history, probably because I'm the one who chose and formed it. If I bring up that day in the Laurentians, Robin says she doesn't remember much about it. I find this impossible to imagine. For me, the opposite is true, with every detail lodged unwaveringly in my memory, recorded in detail, like a film I can replay at any time.

It goes like this: a sunny day in June, the leafy heat of summer at odds with my frozen terror as I stood fixed to the ground. The air thick and still as a wall against Robin's ragged breath.

And the wolf my sister had named Catherine inspecting us both with her yellow eyes.

Lampedusa by Steven Price

Steven Price is the author of Lampedusa. (McClelland & Stewart)

About the book: In Lampedusa, the last prince of Lampedusa, Giuseppe Tomasi, faces the end of his life in 1950s Sicily. He spends his final days labouring over the manuscript of his novel, The Leopard, which he believes will be his lasting legacy.

From the book: In his smaller library he kept a broken white rock, like a twist of coral, taken by a sugar merchant from the natural harbour at Lampedusa. In the afternoons he would hold that rock to the sunlight feeling the sharp heavy truth of it. He was that island's prince but like all its princes had never seen its shores nor set foot upon it. To visitors he would say, wryly: It is an island of fire, at the edge of the world; who could live there? He would not add: A great family's bitterness is always lived in. He would not hold that rock out and say: This is a dead thing and yet it will outlive me. He was the last of his line and after him came only extinction.

Reproduction by Ian Williams

Ian Williams is the author of Reproduction. (Sinisa Jolic, CBC)

About the book: Reproduction is about Felicia and her teenage son Army. After they move into a basement apartment, they bond with the house's owner and his two children. But strange gifts from Army's wealthy, absent father begin to arrive at their doorstep, inviting new tensions into the makeshift family's lives. 

From the book: Army raised the garage door at ten in the morning, expecting a throng of customers, the guys he had to turn back yesterday, but only Hendrix, the kid from upstairs, was outside, poking a straw into an anthill.

You want a haircut? Army asked although he had cut the boy's hair yesterday. I don't have any money, Hendrix said.

Well, go get some.

Don't have none. I could give you some ants if you want.

Army sighed. He stood at the edge of the garage on the heels of his flattened trainers, his hair-cutting shoes, holding his wrists and staring beyond Hendrix into the street. He hadn't worn a shirt in days. He had downplayed the obvious problem with his business. Sure, he had chosen Monday, July 4, as the grand opening in the spirit of big-business American entrepreneurship, advertised with a flyer on every porch for blocks, incentivized with the half-price offers, even pimpified the garage into lounge cum music shop, but people simply didn't need haircuts every day.

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