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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

2015 Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize Shortlist

The shortlist for the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Award was announced today.  Here are descriptions of the five nominees (from

Fifteen Dogs by André Alexis
A bet between the gods Hermes and Apollo leads them to grant human consciousness and language to a group of dogs overnighting at a Toronto veterinary clinic.  Suddenly capable of more complex thought, the pack is torn between those who resist the new ways of thinking, preferring the old 'dog' ways, and those who embrace the change.  The gods watch from above as the dogs venture into their newly unfamiliar world, as they become divided among themselves, as each struggles with new thoughts and feelings.
Note:  This novel also appears on the Scotiabank Giller Prize longlist.

His Whole Life by Elizabeth Hay
Starting with something as simple as a boy who wants a dog, His Whole Life takes us into a world where everything that matters to him is at risk: family, nature, home.  At the outset ten-year-old Jim and his Canadian mother and American father are on a journey from New York City to a lake in eastern Ontario during the last hot days of August.  What unfolds is a story that spans a few pivotal years of his youth. Moving from city to country, summer to winter, wellbeing to illness, the novel charts the deepening bond between mother and son even as the family comes apart.  Set in the mid-1990s, when Quebec is on the verge of leaving Canada, this novel is an unconventional coming of age story.  
Note:  I reviewed this novel on August 18.

Red Jacket by Pamela Mordecai
Growing up on the Caribbean island of St. Chris, Grace Carpenter never feels like she really belongs. Although her large, extended family is black, she is a redibo.  Her skin is copper-coloured, her hair is red, and her eyes are grey.  A neighbour taunts her, calling her “a little red jacket,” but the reason for the insult is never explained.  Only much later does Grace learn the story of her birth mother and decipher the mystery surrounding her true identity.

Confidence by Russell Smith
In the stories of Confidence, there are ecstasy-taking PhD students, financial traders desperate for husbands, owners of failing sex stores, violent and unremovable tenants, aggressive raccoons, seedy massage parlours, experimental filmmakers who record every second of their day, and wives who blog insults directed at their husbands.  There are cheating husbands.  There are private clubs, crowded restaurants, and psychiatric wards.
Note:  This short story collection also appears on the Scotiabank Giller Prize longlist.

The Jaguar’s Children by John Vaillant
Hector, a young Zapotec fleeing Mexico for a better life in the U.S. with his friend Cesar, a biotech researcher, pays to be smuggled across the border by unscrupulous "coyotes," concealed in the tightly sealed, empty tank of a water truck packed with illegal migrants.  Abandoned by the smugglers in the desert, they are left to die, their only lifeline Cesar's phone.  When Cesar slips into unconsciousness, Hector reaches out to the one name with an American code--AnniMac--that becomes his lifeline to the world as he reveals what has brought him to this place, taking us back to an older Mexico, to the lives of his Zapotec grandparents and the ancient, mythic traditions, to the mystery behind the jaguar icon left to him by a mysterious archeologist, and the power of the corn myth.  The dangers Cesar is fleeing become apparent as does the importance of his survival.

The winner of the $25,000 prize will be announced on November 3, 2015.