Tag Archives: Canadian Authors

Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: Books Set in Ontario

Hosted by Long and Short Reviews.

Click here to read everyone else’s replies to this week’s question and here to see the full list of topics for the year.

Most people immediately think of Toronto when they hear the word Ontario. I love my city, but today I wanted to highlight the province as a whole. There are great books set in every part of it, so I have a lot to say this week!

Wenjack by Joseph Boyden and Kent Monkman book cover. Images on cover are of common Ontario wildlife like rabbits and otters.

Wenjack by Joseph Boyden and Kent Monkman

Where It’s Set: A fictionalized version of Kenora. (If you’re not familiar with our geography, think a remote corner of Northern Ontario near Woodland Caribou Provincial Park).

What It’s About: The story of Chani Wenjack, an Ojibwe boy who ran away from a  North Ontario residential school in an attempt to go home to his family. Chani was a real child, but some parts of the plot were fictionalized.

The Short-Wave Mystery (Hardy Boys, #24) by Franklin W. Dixon book cover. Image on cover is of one boy looking into a log cabin through its window while another boy crouches on the snow behind him.

The Short-Wave Mystery (Hardy Boys, #24) by Franklin W. Dixon

Where It’s Set: A fictional body of water called White Bear River near Hudson’s Bay, a real place in Northern Ontario.

What It’s About: The Hardy Boys figuring out who stole a collection of stuffed animals from an estate sale.

The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery book cover. Image on cover is of two lovers walking in a rose garden.

The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery

Where It’s Set: The fictional town of Deerwood, located in the Muskoka region in Central Ontario. Deerwood is based on the real city of Bala.

What It’s About: A young, single woman who was diagnosed with a fatal heart condition. Knowing that she only had about a year to live, she decided to escape her controlling family and find happiness wherever she can with the time she had left. This is my all-time favourite Montgomery novel, and it is much more cheerful than it might seem.

Whatever Happened to Mary Janeway?- A Home Child Story by Mary Pettit book cover. Image on cover is of a Victorian girl's photograph superimposed onto a black and white photo of London, Ontario

Whatever Happened to Mary Janeway?: A Home Child Story by Mary Pettit

Where It’s Set: Hamilton (southwest of Toronto).

What It’s About: This is a fictional story of a teenage girl who was sent to London, Ontario (which also southwest of Toronto) as part of the Home Child Program. She was so dissatisfied with her placement that she ran away from it!

If you’re not familiar with this bit of Canadian history, The Home Child program was a precursor to modern foster care and adoption in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Children in English orphanages were sent to Canada (and Australia) to be looked after by families there and taught the life skills and trades they’d need to know to be self-sufficient as adults. Some children were adopted into loving homes through it, but others were treated as free labour…or worse.

Cat's Eye  by Margaret Atwood book cover. Image on cover is of a hooded figure holding a glowing blue orb levitating above a bridge while snow falls on bare tree branches.

Cat’s Eye  by Margaret Atwood

Where It’s Set: Toronto

What It’s About: A controversial painter who returns home to confront her past and understand how those experiences shaped her art.

After the Bloom by Leslie Shimotakahara book cover. Image on cover is of a hand holding a branch filled with cherry blossoms.

After the Bloom by Leslie Shimotakahara

Where It’s Set: Toronto

What It’s About: An elderly woman suffering from dementia who goes missing one day, her adult daughter’s frantic search for her, and the family secrets that are revealed along the way.

My Favourite Canadian Books

Happy belated Canada Day!

One of the most interesting parts of moving to Canada was getting to read some of the amazing books that have been written by Canadian authors over the years.

From what I’ve observed, there seems to be a lot of Canadian literature that isn’t necessarily that well-known in the United States. While I can’t say for sure if this is true for other countries as well, I hope that all of my readers, Canadian and otherwise, find something that piques their interest on this list.

On one final note, I narrowed this list down to books and authors that I hadn’t heard of at all before I moved up north. This meant leaving out some fabulous writers like L.M. Montgomery and Margaret Atwood simply because so many people across the world have already discovered their work.

The Stone Angel by Margaret Laurence

The Stone Angel has actually become one of my favourite books of all time even though Hagar, the main character, was often a pretty unpleasant person to those closest to her. What I enjoyed the most about the storytelling was how real it felt. As I believe I’ve mentioned on this site before, Hagar went through some incredibly difficult experiences throughout her long life. She was treated poorly by both her parents and the much-older man she married as a young adult. It was so interesting to get to know this character and come to understand why she was so stubborn and prickly at the end of her life.

Annabel by Kathleen Winter

Raising an intersex child can come with some additional challenges, especially for a family that decided to keep this part of their child’s identity top-secret. I knew almost nothing about this topic before I read this book, but I was impressed with the way the author explored everything from how gender identity is formed to how a secret can take on a life of its own.

Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese

It took me a couple of tries to get into this story, but once I did I couldn’t wait to find out what else Saul remembered about his life as he lay dying in a hospice bed. There is something about looking back on one’s life and finally attempting to put all of the pieces together after years of ignoring them that really speaks to me.

The Jade Peony by Wayson Choy

 I was especially interested in discovering how the three youngest siblings in this tale compared their childhoods. There is something fascinating about seeing all of the similarities and differences siblings will remember when they were raised in the same home. My family only had three children in total, but I’d say that all of us would still describe our childhoods in different ways based on how our family culture evolved as we grew older.

I also enjoyed this peek into Chinatown, Vancouver from so many decades ago. The families who moved to such a faraway place that often rejected them were very brave.

The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill

Reading about an eleven-year-old girl being kidnapped in Africa before being sold into slavery in the United States isn’t an easy experience. I can’t recommend this book to anyone who is triggered by violence or sexual assault, but the storyline is well worth the read for everyone else. Aminata was an incredibly brave character. I loved seeing how she changed over the years as well as how her yearning to return home and be with her family again never wavered no matter how many years she spent far away from her birthplace.

Missed Her by Ivan E. Coyote

Not only is Ivan a gifted storyteller, she’s hilarious as well. I’d especially recommend this book to members of the LGBT+ community who grew up in small towns or anyone who has ever wondered what that experience is like.

Calculating God by Robert J. Sawyer

Longterm readers may recognize this author. I’m  a huge fan of his writing, and I’ve talked about his books here several times before. Someday I might have to dedicate an entire post to him.

Calculating God was the first thing I ever read from Robert. At the time, I was quickly growing uninterested in religious themes of any sort in novels, so it took me a while to decide to pick this tale up. I made assumptions about it’s content that turned out to be pretty off the mark. While it did ask questions about the nature of faith and why sentient beings choose to believe a wide variety of things about the existence (or non-existence) of any deity, the vast majority of the plot was actually about a palaeontologist who was stunned when an alien wandered into the Royal Ontario Museum, his workplace, one day and asked for help.

This is the sort of thing I’ve since been recommending to people who might think they’ll never like science fiction. Not only was it an excellent story, it was thought provoking and a smart introduction to my favourite genre as well.

What are your favourite Canadian books? If there are any fellow immigrants or longterm world travellers following this site, what authors were you most excited to discover when you settled into your new country?