Annal: 2004 Governor General's Literary Award for Fiction

Results of the Governor General's Literary Award in the year 2004.

Book:A Complicated Kindness

A Complicated Kindness: A Novel

Miriam Toews

“Half of our family, the better-looking half, is missing,” Nomi Nickel tells us at the beginning of A Complicated Kindness. Left alone with her sad, peculiar father, her days are spent piecing together why her mother and sister have disappeared and contemplating her inevitable career at Happy Family Farms, a chicken slaughterhouse on the outskirts of East Village. Not the East Village in New York City where Nomi would prefer to live, but an oppressive town founded by Mennonites on the cold, flat plains of Manitoba, Canada.

This darkly funny novel is the world according to the unforgettable Nomi, a bewildered and wry sixteen-year-old trapped in a town governed by fundamentalist religion and in the shattered remains of a family it destroyed. In Nomi’s droll, refreshing voice, we’re told the story of an eccentric, loving family that falls apart as each member lands on a collision course with the only community any of them have ever known. A work of fierce humor and tragedy by a writer who has taken the American market by storm, this searing, tender, comic testament to family love will break your heart.

Book:Natasha and Other Stories

Natasha and Other Stories

David Bezmozgis

Few readers had heard of David Bezmozgis before last May, when Harper’s, Zoetrope, and The New Yorker all printed stories from his forthcoming collection. In the space of a few weeks, these magazines introduced America to the Bermans—Bella and Roman and their son, Mark—Russian Jews who have fled the Riga of Brezhnev for Toronto, the city of their dreams.

Told through Mark’s eyes, and spanning the last twenty-three years, Natasha brings the Bermans and the Russian-Jewish enclaves of Toronto to life in stories full of big, desperate, utterly believable consequence. In “Tapka” six-year-old Mark’s first experiments in English bring ruin and near tragedy to the neighbors upstairs. In “Roman Berman, Massage Therapist,” Roman and Bella stake all their hopes for Roman’s business on their first, humiliating dinner in a North American home. Later, in…[more]

Book:Norman Bray, in the Performance of His Life

Norman Bray, in the Performance of His Life

Trevor Cole

For years, Toronto stage actor Norman Bray has renounced all responsibility in the name of his “art.” Now, middle-aged, teetering on the edge of financial ruin, and clinging to the faded light of his career, Norman must answer to the bank, to the adult children of his recently deceased common-law wife, and, most of all, to his own illusions about himself. Making matters worse, Amy, his stepdaughter-of-a-sort, discovers her late mother’s journals and the unhappiness they contain. Meanwhile, Norman finds himself embroiled in the affairs of an attractive neighbour, with unexpected consequences.

Highly original, skewering, hilarious, humane, Trevor Cole’s brilliant debut looks at the precarious ties of love and family and the plight of a man who has reached the end of the line—and has only himself to blame.

Book:Runaway

Runaway: Stories

Alice Munro

In Alice Munro’s superb new collection, we find stories about women of all ages and circumstances, their lives made palpable by the subtlety and empathy of this incomparable writer.

The runaway of the title story is a young woman who, though she thinks she wants to, is incapable of leaving her husband. In “Passion,” a country girl emerging into the larger world via a job in a resort hotel discovers in a single moment of stunning insight the limits and lies of that mysterious emotion. Three stories are about a woman named Juliet—in the first, she escapes from teaching at a girls’ school into a wild and irresistible love match; in the second she returns with her child to the home of her parents, whose life and marriage she finally begins to examine; and in the last, her child, caught, she mistakenly thinks, in the grip of a religious cult, vanishes into an unexplained and profound silence. In the final story, “Powers,” a young…[more]

Book:Some Great Thing

Some Great Thing: A Novel

Colin McAdam

Jerry McGuinty is a simple, self-made builder who claims he can plaster a wall that will change your life. Simon Struthers is a disaffected businessman who proves the old adage about money and happiness. Together they face the new Ottawa of the seventies: brash, bright, and ready for the taking.

With their different careers and successes, these two strangers seek to carve out their own happiness-Jerry with his new wife, Simon with his endless affairs and intrigues. But love can be suffocated by the drive to succeed, and individuals crushed by greed and progress. Only when both men realize what they have to lose will their lives finally intersect and the story spiral to its astonishing conclusion

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