Staff Pick: Celebrating Wordfest


This week we wanted to celebrate Calgary’s largest literary festival with reviews of a couple of the books by authors speaking at this years event. Tina has graciously provided commentary on some of her favorites this year:

Washington Black by Esi Edugyan

This is an excellent book! I liked it even more than Half Blood Blues by this author.

Washington Black is born a slave on a plantation in Barbados. Mistreated and only ever knowing a life of work and fear, Wash is even more terrified when two brothers come to take over the plantation. He is moved away from the fields and all he’s known and put into the home of Christopher Wilde, the younger brother. To his surprise, he has been given to a scientist. He is taught to read, write, measure, and look at the world in a way that makes him the perfect assistant to Wilde. Wash also discovers a talent he has for drawing and it is through their shared passion for the natural world that the two form a bond. However, these were terrible times, and when a white man ends up dead with Wash as a witness, the two have to decide how far they are willing to run for each other. It indeed takes them to the very ends of the earth, pulling them together and wrenching them apart. This novel explores ideas of freedom, intention, systemic racism, and of the lengths we will go to try to rebuild broken lives.

Washington Black has been shortlisted for the 2018 Man Booker Prize (to be awarded October 16th) and shortlisted for the 2018 Scotiabank Giller Prize (to be awarded November 19th).

Flawed by Andrea Dorfmann

This is a great memoir in an appealing, easy to digest, graphic novel style. It is ultimately an adorable love story: a love story between the author and her husband and also the author and herself. Andrea one day meets and falls in love with a plastic surgeon. This sends her back to her teenage self and the all of the insecurities she has over her large nose. She struggles with loving him and not loving the message that she feels his profession gives to women everywhere. She revisits her own experiences in adolescence of being teased for her appearance and her battle between wanting to change how she looks and accepting herself as she is. The ultimate lesson is that often what makes us stand out is what makes us unique.

Her Pretty Face by Robyn Harding

In this mystery book, two women, who don’t really fit in to the community of their sons’ private school, become the best of friends very quickly. However, both of them harbor terrible secrets about their pasts. What can be forgiven and what is completely unforgivable?

 This book was a quick, easy read with an interesting enough story line that kept me trying to piece together who was going to be who in the end. The chapters flipped from the point-of-view of one of the women, to the other woman’s daughter, to a character just named “DJ” who seemed, at first, to have nothing to do with the story taking place, but added to you trying to guess things about each woman. Anyone interested in the Karla Holmolka story would probably be interested in this.