Books

The finalists for the 2022 Governor General's Literary Award for fiction

The $25,000 prizes recognize the best Canadian books of the year.

The $25,000 prizes recognize the best Canadian books of the year

The 2022 Governor General's Literary Awards for fiction finalists. (Canada Council for the Arts/CBC)

Here are the finalists for the 2022 Governor General's Literary Award for fiction.

The Governor General's Literary Awards are one of Canada's oldest and most prestigious literary prizes. 

The prizes, administered by the Canada Council for the Arts, are awarded in seven English-language categories: fictionnonfictionpoetryyoung people's literature — textyoung people's literature — illustrationdrama and French-to-English translation. Seven French-language awards are also given out in the same categories. 

The Canada Council for the Arts is a partner of the CBC Literary Prizes. The 2023 CBC Short Story Prize is currently open for submissions.

Each winner will receive $25,000. The winners will be announced on Nov. 16, 2022.

The fiction category was assessed by Norma Dunning, Thea Lim and John Steffler.

You can see the finalists in all seven categories here.

Get to know the fiction finalists below.

All the Quiet Places by Brian Thomas Isaac

All the Quiet Places is a novel by Brian Thomas Isaac. (Touchwood Editions)

In All the Quiet Places, it's 1956 and young Eddie Toma lives on the far edge of the Okanagan Indian Reserve with his mother and little brother. In the summer, he tags along with his mother, her friends and his nephew to farm in Washington state. After tragedy strikes, Eddie comes home grief-stricken, confused and lonely. As he grows up, his life is governed by the decisions of the adults around him. And every time things start to look up, circumstances beyond his control crash down around him — and the effects of guilt, grief and despair keep piling up, threatening everything Eddie has ever known or loved.

All the Quiet Places was also on the Canada Reads 2022 longlist and the 2022 Scotiabank Giller Prize longlist.

Brian Thomas Isaac was born on the Okanagan Indian Reserve in B.C. He's worked in oil fields, as a bricklayer and had a short career riding bulls in local rodeos. As a lover of sports, he has coached minor hockey. All the Quiet Places is his first book.

LISTEN | Brian Thomas Isaac discusses writing his first novel at age 71:

Okanagan First Nation writer Brian Thomas Isaac's debut is a window into a unique Indigenous boy's childhood.

Finding Edward by Sheila Murray

Finding Edward is a novel by Sheila Murray. (Ken Straiton, Cormorant Books)

Finding Edward is a novel about a man, Cyril Rowntree, who discovers letters from the 1920s that reveal the story of a white mother who gave up her mixed race son, Edward, for adoption. Cyril has recently moved to Toronto from Jamaica and was abandoned by his own white father, so Edward's story intrigues him, and he begins to search for Edward, and the truth about what happened to him. This journey of personal discovery is also one of Canada's Black history.

Sheila Murray is a writer born and raised in England who now lives in Hamilton, Ont. Finding Edward is her first novel. Her short fiction has appeared in Descant, The Dalhousie Review, and The New Quarterly.

Probably Ruby by Lisa Bird-Wilson

Probably Ruby is a novel by Lisa Bird-Wilson. (Doubleday Canada, Julie Cortens)

The novel Probably Ruby is about the life of Ruby, a young girl who grows up knowing very little about her Indigenous heritage. Her parents' separation sparks a chain reaction of events — and her life is beset by alcohol, drugs and bad relationships. Left with no support network, Ruby searches for her unknown roots in the most destructive of places. 

Probably Ruby also won two 2022 Saskatchewan Book Awards: the Regina Public Library Book of the Year Award Honouring Mary Sutherland and the City of Saskatoon/Saskatoon Public Library Saskatoon Award.

Lisa Bird-Wilson is a Saskatchewan Métis and nêhiyaw writer. Her book Just Pretending won four Saskatchewan Book Awards. She is also the author of the poetry collection The Red Files.

LISTEN | Lisa Bird-Wilson discusses Probably Ruby with Shelagh Rogers:

Lisa Bird Wilson in conversation with Shelagh Rogers about her novel, Probably Ruby.

Pure Colour by Sheila Heti

Sheila Heti is the author of Pure Colour. (Margaux Williamson, Knopf Random Vintage Canada)

Pure Colour follows a woman named Mira, who leaves home for school and meets a person named Annie. Annie has this power over Mira and opens her chest like a portal. Many years later when Mira is older, her father dies and his spirit passes into her. Together, they become a leaf on a tree. But when photosynthesis gets boring, Mira must choose whether or not to return to Annie and the human world she has left behind. Pure Colour is a funny exploration of the wonderful and terrible aspects of being alive.

Pure Colour was also on the 2022 Scotiabank Giller Prize longlist.

Sheila Heti is a Canadian playwright and author whose work has been translated in over a dozen languages. Her novel Motherhood was on the shortlist for the 2018 Scotiabank Giller Prize. She is also the author of the novels Ticknor and How Should a Person Be? and the self-help book The Chairs Are Where the People Go.

LISTEN | Sheila Heti discusses Pure Colour with David Common:

In her new novel Pure Colour, Canadian author Sheila Heti explores the idea that the world is an unfinished work of art, whose creator is getting ready to scrap and start over... because the first draft just didn't cut it. David Common speaks with Heti about the book's themes of grief, climate change and the human condition, along with the personal loss that shaped its narrative.

The Most Precious Substance on Earth by Shashi Bhat

The Most Precious Substance on Earth is a novel by Shashi Bhat. (Olivia Ali, McClelland & Stewart)

The Most Precious Substance on Earth, is a coming-of-age take about Nina, a present-day high school teacher. When she was 14, she preferred to keep quiet about quite a few things, such as her crush on her English teacher, her mother's attempts to match her up with local Halifax Indian boys, her best friend pulling away and her worried father reciting Hindu prayers outside her bedroom door. She also won't talk about a life-changing incident in high school. Over the years, she discovers that the past is never far behind her. 

Shashi Bhat is a writer who lives in New Westminster, B.C. She is also the author of the novel The Family Took Shape.

LISTEN | Shashi Bhat discusses The Most Precious Substance on Earth with Shelagh Rogers:

Shashi Bhat talks to Shelagh Rogers about her latest novel, The Most Precious Substance on Earth.

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