It has been a long winter in Toronto! I cannot wait for the warmer spring weather when I can get outside and start gardening! The only upside to this never-ending winter is it’s given me more indoor time to read! There’s nothing better after shoveling snow than coming indoors, making yourself a cup of tea and finding a comfortable spot on the couch to crack into your new book. Below are some of the books I’ve been reading over the past few months. I hope at least one of them piques your interest!
When a book can inspire you to change your habits, I would say that book is a success! Don’t Be Trashy: A Practical Guide to Living with Less Waste and More Joy by Tara McKenna is the book in question. Although I would rate myself a 6 out of 10 when it comes to being eco-conscious, I have become more aware of how I can live a green life after reading McKenna’s book. McKenna offers great tips for being environmentally friendly including doing a pantry audit to find out what you are purchasing each week and looking for green alternatives. The author introduced another innovative idea of a “No Buy Month”, similar to a Dry January. Because McKenna is Toronto-based, she provides many recommendations for purchasing eco-friendly products at GTA or Canadian companies so this was helpful to me.
One of my most anticipated books to read over the past month was August Into Winter. This epic novel by Guy Vanderhaeghe reminds me of the Flannery O’Connor Southern Gothic stories we studied in my second-year English class at U of T. This is due to its dark theme and deeply-flawed main character. It is 1939 and Ernie Sickert is known for performing pranks in the small Saskatchewan (fictional) town of Connaught. But this self-aggrandizing attitude goes too far when he murders a police officer. Jack and Oliver Dill, brothers and veterans of WWI, head out to find Sickert, who has disappeared. The 21-year-old Sickert has been described as a man-child; most notably due to his attraction to 12-year-old Loretta Pipe, whom he regards as his girlfriend. The brothers are nursing wounds from the war and beyond: Jack has become a religious zealot while Oliver is bereaving the loss of his wife and is simply trying to make it through the day. Newly-arrived schoolteacher Vidalia Taggart has baggage of her own including a past love affair with Dov Schecter who left her to fight in the Spanish Civil War. Vanderhaege’s writing and use of metaphor is so colourful and descriptive that, despite the dark subject matter, made this a pleasure to read.
This is the third book in the long-running Inspector Gamache series by New York Times bestselling author Louise Penny. Even though I have read more recent books in the series, I decided to read some of the earlier books since they provide the backstory to the later books in the series. I chose The Cruelest Month because it focuses on séances in the old Hadley House. A guest at Oliver & Gabri’s bed-and-breakfast is in fact a psychic who promises to hold a séance to rid the Hadley house of its evil spirits. Many of the residents of Three Pines attend and one unlucky visitor ends up dead. A sub-plot of this novel involves the politics and maneuverings of the top brass at the Sureté du Quebec concerning Gamache and his handling of the Arnot case. This book will help you count the days until the warmer spring weather arrives since it takes place during Easter.
I was so excited when I saw a copy of How To Pronounce Knife: Stories in my local Free Library. The debut short story collection won the 2020 Scotiabank Giller Prize. Thammavongsa beautifully highlights the immigrant experience in Canada and the U.S. – in this case, she writes touchingly about Laos immigrants working in marginalized jobs and trying to assimilate into North American culture. In the title story, a young girl receives questionable instruction from her father on how to pronounce tricky English words. Other stories focus on a Laos man having to work at a nail salon, a woman developing a crush on Randy Travis and a Laos woman being overlooked in her work on a worm farm. The stories provide great insight into the experience of being an outsider. I also like that the author chose a simple writing style that reflects the requirement of immigrants to keep much deeper, conflicted emotions from bubbling to the surface.
I hope you enjoyed my review of the books I’ve read over Winter 2022. We have another month of this up-and-down weather to go so you may as well get a good book lined up in the meantime! Happy reading! Please let me know in the comment section what you’re currently reading.
You may be interested in reading “What I’m Crushing on in February 2022“.