Briny Books (http://www.brinybooks.ca/)is a one-of-a-kind partnership between writer Kerry Clare and Blue Heron Books, featuring a rotating selection of expertly curated fiction. It's a selection that’s just far enough off the beaten track—but not so far that these books won’t read up a delight.
Our titles are fresh, provocative, and bursting with life, the kinds of books that will make you sit up and pay attention, and be reminded of why you fell in love with reading in the first place. The titles also happen to be Canadian and published by independent presses, which is important, but also kind of incidental. Most essentially: these are the kinds of books that readers deserve to know and will fall in love with.
Why trust Kerry, you might ask. Very good question. Over the past decade, she's developed a proven track record of literary matchmaking through her book blog, Pickle Me This, book reviews in The Toronto Star, Chatelaine, the Walrus, and other places, and also with her monthly books column on CBC Ontario Morning. She's been editor of the Canadian books website 49thShelf.com since 2011, which has provided her an expert perspective of what’s going on in Canadian publishing and which titles are worth readers’ attention. Through her website, newsletter, and social media channels, there are literally thousands of readers who’ve come to trust her recommendations and she takes that commendation really seriously.
The four books chosen are:
The Luminous Sea by Melissa Barbeau, Breakwater Books, 2018
Melissa Barbeau gets a little 'The Shape of Water' in her debut novel, you might think, what with the mysterious sea creature and all, but this turns out to be a book that is devoid of whimsy, a book that is serious about science, and wonder, and also gender politics. The writing is heartbreakingly good and it’s the kind of book you’ll stay up too late reading because you must absolutely find out how it ends. This was one of my favourite reads of 2018, and more readers deserve to know about it.
Bad Ideas by Missy Marston, ECW Press, 2019
I fell in love with Missy Marston’s strange, beautiful and heartfelt work with The Love Monster, which won the Ottawa Book Award in 2013. And her sophomore effort does not disappoint. It takes place in the 1970s in a depressed mill town on the banks of the St. Lawrence River, and is loosely inspired by the true story of Ken “The Mad Canadian” Carter who aspired to drive a rocket car across the St. Lawrence. Which is a terrible idea, but this book is a wonderful, a story about love and other seemingly-impossible feats.
Frying Plantain by Zalika Reid-Benta, House of Anansi, 2019
Imagine Lives of Girls and Women, set in Toronto’s Little Jamaica. Reid-Benta’s debut has been praised by the likes of Paul Beatty, and truly the book is a standout. Like Munro’s book, it’s a collection of stories that come together to create a narrative whose connections and omissions are telling and compelling. In this story of Kara, a young woman coming of age in Toronto and making sense of her Jamaican-Canadian heritage, readers will discover a remarkable new literary voice.
Crow by Amy Spurway, Goose Lane Editions, 2019
Spurway’s novel has been getting a lot of love—The Globe and Mail called it “ridiculous—and ridiculously good.” Spurway takes all the usual CanLit tropes and turns the whole thing on its head in a book that is as rollicking as it is deeply affecting. You will get to the end and wonder, “How did she pull that off?” An incredible balancing act—writing a comedy about a death—but Spurway performs it with aplomb. You’ve never read anything like it.