Hope you'll check out this CBC documentary!
Meet the women who love murder | The Mesdames of Mayhem
The Minerva Reader is back!

The Umbrella Mender by Christine Fischer Guy, Wolsak and Wynn.

About the book (from Goodreads):

Much is undecided. The doctors talk over me, debating the possibility that I’ll speak again.

Though a stroke has left her mute, the story Hazel has to share is unforgettable. As a talented nurse in the early 1950s, she went to Moose Factory to help fight the epidemic of tuberculosis that was ravaging the indigenous peoples of the north. Each week the boat brought new patients from the Nunavik region to the little hospital. It was a desperate undertaking, fraught with cultural and language difficulties that hampered the urgent, sometimes reckless, efforts of the medical staff. Hazel is soon distracted from the tensions of the hospital by an enigmatic drifter named Gideon Judge, an itinerant umbrella mender, who is searching for the Northwest Passage.

From her own hospital bed, the older Hazel struggles to pass on to her grandniece the harrowing tale of her past in the north, including the fate of Gideon and the heartbreaking secrets she left behind. With arresting characters, a richly drawn setting and impeccable prose, author Christine Fischer Guy weaves a story that lingers long after the book is closed. 

My review:
I was quite haunted by this book. When I read it, in 2014, I didn’t have The Minerva Review and Ididn’t write a review at the time. However, I wanted to showcase here now, as an upcoming event, to be hosted by Christine Fischer Guy, titled, Unforgettable Women in Fiction, reminded me how unforgettable her Hazel is. She is as strong in my mind today as she was back then. Enduring characters are a mark of wonderful fiction.

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Little Fortress by Laisha Rosnau, Wolsak and Wynn.

About the book (from Goodreads):
In this captivating and intricate novel Laisha Rosnau introduces us to three women, each of whom is storied enough to have their own novel and who, together, make for an unforgettable tale. Based on the true story of the Caetanis, Italian nobility driven out of their home by the rise in fascism who chose exile in Vernon, BC, Rosnau brings to life Ofelia Caetani, her daughter Sveva Caetani and their personal secretary, Miss Juul. Miss Juul is the voice of the novel, a diminutive Danish woman who enters into employment with the Caetani family in Italy before the birth of Sveva, stays with them through twenty-five years of seclusion at their home in Vernon, and past the death of Ofelia. Little Fortress is a story of a shifting world, with the death of its age-old nobility, and of the intricacies of the lives of women caught up in these grand changes. It is a story of friendship, class, betrayal and love.

My review: 
When I saw an ARC of Laisha Rosna’s book up for grabs, I lunged at it. It didn’t matter that there was no one around to arm wrestle the book from me and perhaps I was worried that book was a figment of my imagination and I had to nab it before it disappeared! I loved Laisha Rosnau’s first book, The Sudden Weight of Snow, and I just couldn’t wait to read this one.

I was slightly perplexed by the title, Little Fortress, given the book’s blurb. I wasn’t sure where fortresses would come into the picture, little or otherwise. But of course, as I read the book, it all became clear.

I don’t want to give the game away but fortresses come in many shapes and sizes and I loved Rosnau’s use of them. Women’s bodies, as fortresses, within which we live, from which we do battle daily, and which hold the sanctity of our inner strength and resources which, while strained, do not break. This is a beautiful story of endurance and survival. 

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What Goes Around by Ruth Clarke, Inanna Publications

About the book (from Goodreads):
What do a corpse, a painter, two smugglers, a clever ghost, a green parrot, a fashion show and a bank robbery have in common? Set in present-day Central America, a talkative parrot witnesses a crime; friendly spirits chaperone, shape, and direct their fellow characters in criminal pursuits, in romantic liaisons and in business endeavours, allowing them to make amends, and to right some of the wrongs of history through actions reminiscent of legendary Robin Hood. Simon Patrick, an artist, re-locates in Costa Rica. He inherits a parrot, Don Verde, once a drug mule for Marco Alvarez who has left behind the body of his wife, Isabella, in the well. But this is not a run-of-the-mill smuggler, nor is Isabella a passive ghost. What follows is a terrific tale of friendship, thievery, haunting, and finally redemption.

My review: 
Vivid. Compelling and painterly. What Goes Around is a richly textured, sensual novel with a layered plot to match. There’s a crime and love, both good and bad, Wounds that would heal slowly but, when aided by the happenstance of good friends and fortune, heal more quickly. This would be a good novel to read during the bleak Canadian winter when we all need to feel as if we are in scented gardens or swimming in the ocean, feeling the sand underfoot and hearing the calls of ‘birds’

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Looking Down Life, Why We Shadow Box Our Demons From The Poetry Ring, The Shining Few, A Dramatic Tribute to Emily Carr and Impulse on The Run by Peggy Fletcher.(book cover images to follow)

Four volumes of poetry by Peggy Fletcher were perfect Minerva Reader finds! My husband was on a shoot in Sarnia and one of the locations was the community centre. His workdays are a great time fro me to explore and find story ideas. I wandered into the centre and found books for sale. I found four slim volumes – what a find!

Below is an article written by Debbie Okun Hill, President, The Ontario Poetry Society, January 14, 2012 and it perfectly sums up what I’d like to say about Peggy Fletcher’s work. I find her insights and observations unsettlingly accurate to the point of being unnerving. Thank you, Peggy, for so perfectly putting words to this magical mystical and strange human experience.

"I am not afraid of dying but the prospect of wasting away is what I fear most. I want people to remember me in a happier light not what I may become at the end. - Peggy Fletcher, November 23, 2011"

"Award-winning poet Peggy Fletcher knew how to touch people with her words. Even when faced with adversity, she accepted her fate, thinking of others before herself. For those who knew her well, she was the pillar of strength, the foundation and earth matriarch that so many infant writers have leaned on. Like the wind, her ideas swirled through the minds of those she taught and mentored. Her poetry danced: spirited not only with rich metaphors fueled by the fire of her imagination but also with a vision and clarity as pristine as ice.

Born in St. John's, Newfoundland, Peggy settled in Sarnia, Ontario where she continued to retain her Eastern Canadian and small town charm. As TOPS Sarnia branch manager, she spent more time helping others than marketing her own work. In addition to being a mother of five grown daughters and spending time with several grandchildren, she became one of Lambton County's most prolific writers.

She taught creative writing, was an editor for The Observer and the literary magazine Mamashee, had her work aired on CBC-Radio and published nationally in Chatelaine and other literary publications including Room, Quills and Mobius. She was also the co-creator and one of the original hosts of Spoken Word, an open mic event at the Lawrence House Centre for the Arts.

Peggy's portfolio includes a short story collection, a full-length play about the life of Canadian artist Emily Carr, and over 15 poetry books/chapbooks including Why We Shadow Box Our Demons and One Hundred Sonnets Home. For close to fifty years, she played a vital role in Sarnia's literary scene and was a mentor to many members of Writers in Transition (WIT), a local writers group that she helped to establish in 1979.

As Peggy mentioned in late November, "I am so proud to have been a part of this writing community, and having contributed a small body of poetry and art that hopefully reaches standards that I tried to attain."

She will not be forgotten!

On behalf of all the members of The Ontario Poetry Society, thank you for all that you have done for this organization over the years as well as being my poetry mentor and dear writing friend. I know you are listening. I can feel you lurking in the wind, the way you stir the earth with your fingers, the way your literary fire roars through my grief, that writer's block of ice that makes me shiver."

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And an event shoutout! I'll be reading and it would be lovely to see Toronto Friends!