Bold new titles search for light in uncertain times

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      Spring literary gatherings, along with the schedules of some major publishers, may be on hold right now, but we’ve seen the release of powerful new titles over the past couple of weeks, among them the three below. Although they appear dark in theme at first glance, each is, in its own way, here to shed light.

      Lean Out: A Meditation On The Madness Of Modern Life

      (By Tara Henley. Appetite)

      The “madness” in the subtitle has gotten a bit madder recently, for sure, and many of us are feeling nostalgic right now for old worries of the kind described in this distinctive memoir and travelogue. Even so, the experiences that local writer, journalist, and Georgia Straight contributor Tara Henley sets out here—about the dire personal costs of overwork, stress, and burnout, and the innovative ways people around the world, Henley included, have sought to heal themselves—are taking on an urgent new relevance. When the COVID cloud lifts, we may all be left with a clear new sense of what makes life worth living and what doesn’t.

      Good Citizens Need Not Fear

      (By Maria Reva. Knopf Canada)

      Vancouver’s Maria Reva sets this politically charged new novel in her native Ukraine around the time of the Soviet Union’s collapse, when an entire apartment block is accidentally deleted from municipal records and its residents are left to improvise their own paths through historic uncertainty. Reva (who is also known to local lovers of the performing arts as an opera librettist collaborating with such companies as ERATO Ensemble and City Opera Vancouver) conjures a small, darkly funny world condemned by official neglect to rebuild itself off the grid.

      Radical Acts Of Love: How We Find Hope At The End Of Life

      (By Janie Brown. Doubleday Canada)

      There is no wisdom like wisdom about mortality, as Vancouver oncology nurse and counsellor Janie Brown has learned from decades of experience. Here, she gathers insights from 20 conversations she’s had with dying people in her care, offering them to show that “we know how to die, just as we knew how to come into this world”. Even as the topic is carefully avoided in our culture, to the point of taboo, Brown intends these “teaching stories” to “heal, nourish and strengthen your hearts”.