Donna Tartt has conjured up some critical controversy with her latest novel, The Goldfinch. While it has been awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction 2014, the critics have been fighting over whether or not this book should be getting the accolades that is has. Read more about it in Vanity Fair.
But, controversy or not, it is a fascinating, enthralling story about Theo Decker. Theo’s troubles begin when, while visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art with his mother, the museum is blown up by terrorists, killing his mother, while he barely escapes with his life, and with one of the most valuable paintings in the world, the Carel Fabritius masterpiece, The Goldfinch. His life takes on many twists and turns as he struggles to keep the painting hidden and ultimately find meaning for his own life.
Prudence by David Treuer tells the story of Frankie Washburn, a bombardier during WWII, whose family owns a rustic Minnesota resort called the Pines on an Indian reservation. When a prisoner of war camp is established across the river, their tranquility ends. An escaped prisoner sends everyone out to look, including Frankie and his friends. What happens next is a tragedy that will haunt everyone involved for years to come. Treuer handles the subject matter with sensitivity, but gives an honest look at the consequences of decisions made in the face of intolerance, and love.
David Treuer is Ojibwe from the Leech Lake Reservation in northern Minnesota. He has a Ph.D. in anthropology and teaches literature and creative writing at the University of Southern California.
Mink is a witness, a shape shifter, compelled to follow the story that has ensnared Celia and her village, on the West coast of Vancouver Island in Nu:Chahlnuth territory. Celia is a seer who – despite being convinced she’s a little “off” – must heal her village with the assistance of her sister, her mother and father, and her nephews. While mink is visiting, a double-headed sea serpent falls off the house front during a fierce storm. The old snake, ostracized from the village decades earlier, has left his terrible influence on Amos, a residential school survivor. The occurrence signals the unfolding of an ordeal that pulls Celia out of her reveries and into the tragedy of her cousin’s granddaughter. Each one of Celia’s family becomes involved in creating a greater solution than merely attending to her cousin’s granddaughter. Celia’s Song relates one Nu:Chahlnuth family’s harrowing experiences over several generations, after the brutality, interference, and neglect resulting from contact with Europeans. (source)
Based on the unrest in Caledonia, Ontario where native land was being used for a housing development, this novel explores the many characters and issues at stake at the time. It is a fiction in every sense of the word, so the political aspects are muted and don’t overpower the character development and storyline.
But even if the story were not a gripping exploration of town/reserve relations, Smoke River would be a glorious read just for Foss’s imagery, which conjures up a hot, humid Ontario summer that seems to shimmer off the page: “Finally it arrives, the slightest mutiny of scent: sweet clover seeds, germinating in the backhoed earth, an insurrection of moisture beneath the drained and filled pond, an invasion of pollens breezing in off the river.” That connection to the land, which Shayna and Coulson share, is another powerful theme that permeates the novel. (source)
When Jane Standen is 15, she loses the 5 year old girl she is looking after during a walk through the woods. This event traumatizes her for life. In her adult life, she works in a museum, piecing together the stories that haunt each artifact there. Her daily world is populated by the ghosts of these museum pieces and she becomes focused on solving the mystery of a disappeared young woman, lost near the same woods, but many years ago. It becomes interesting when various characters from the local insane asylum become important characters in the mystery. It is an engaging story, but don’t expect all details to wrap up tidily in the end.
The author Aislinn Hunter teaches creative writing at the Kwantlen Polytechnic University In BC.