Winners of “The Very Best!” Book Awards for 2021

The Miramichi Reader's "The Very Best!" Book Awards are all new for 2021. Four categories, four winners and four honourable mentions. The winners were also selected by an external jury (aside from the Non-fiction category which was overseen by James). All judges expressed how hard it was to narrow each or their respective categories down to two, not to mention having to pick one winner. Congrats to all of the 'chosen ones' as well as the authors whose books appeared on the 2021 longlist.

Announcing “The Very Best!” Book Awards Longlist for 2021!

The Miramichi Reader’s popular “The Very Best!” Book Awards (“the Vee-Bahs”) are very different for 2021. To simplify things, we have only four categories: Novels, Non-Fiction, Short Fiction, and Poetry. From the following longlist, our jury (this is new, too!) … Continue reading

Gone Viking: a Travel Saga by Bill Arnott

To “go Viking” is to embark on an epic journey. For more than eight years, Bill Arnott journeyed throughout the northern hemisphere, discovering sites Scandinavian explorers raided, traded, and settled – finding Viking history in a wider swath of the planet than most anthropologists and historians ever imagined.

Meadowlands: A Chronicle of the Scovil Family by Virginia Bliss Bjerkelund

Meadowlands - home to the family of Morris and Harriet Scovil at the beginning of the 20th century; nine hundred acres of interval and forest land at Scovil Point on the St. John River across from Gagetown, New Brunswick; a farm that produced hay and horses; a place that nurtured the life of a remarkable family.

Dirty Birds by Morgan Murray*

In late 2008, as the world’s economy crumbles and Barack Obama ascends to the White House, the remarkably unremarkable Milton Ontario – not to be confused with Milton, Ontario – leaves his parents’ basement in Middle-of-Nowhere, Saskatchewan, and sets forth to find fame, fortune, and love in the Euro-lite electric sexuality of Montreal.

You Were Never Here by Kathleen Peacock

Cat hasn’t been to Montgomery Falls, the town her family founded, since she was twelve years old. Since the summer she discovered she could do things that no normal twelve-year-old could do. Since she had her first kiss with Riley Fraser. Since she destroyed their friendship. Now, five years later, she’s back and Riley has disappeared.

Brighten the Corner Where You Are, a Novel Inspired by the Life of Maud Lewis by Carol Bruneau

Nova Scotia artist Maud Lewis, a character perhaps as folkloric as her paintings, comes to life in Carol Bruneau’s reimagining of her in Brighten the Corner Where You Are.

Lewis has been depicted in books, films and plays. Certain facts are known–her struggle with disabilities including crippling rheumatoid arthritis, her marriage to the meanspirited, miserly alcoholic Everett Lewis, the gaily decorated one-room house where they lived in abject poverty, and the colourful scenes she painted of bucolic country life and sold for a few dollars each. She left no journals and aside from recollections from acquaintances and some interviews, her story is incomplete. We are left, as Maud says, with either “…pictures we paint of ourselves or pitchers of us that others pour out.”

A #ReadAtlantic Book!

Backed by research, Bruneau pours fiction and a keen instinct for the complications of a human life from her pitcher. The story begins with Lewis reflecting from the afterworld after her death in 1970. The reader is skillfully led through memories that jump through time with ease, the way a mind naturally works as one thought begets another.

In Brighten the Corner, Maud gains a fulsomeness. She is not simply a vision of misery and a subject of pity nor a model of indefatigable spirit and artistic joy, but a cauldron of divergent emotions and thoughts starting with her husband. She is grateful to be married and for the little he provides because how else would she survive: “Marriage being a dinghy you don’t want to stand up too straight in, lest it capsizes.” Her concern for him is a mixture of acceptance that she needs him and a kind of fondness. She gets frustrated and angry, then defends him, partly because she recognizes he too is a victim of life’s misfortune.

“So long as I could paint, I got through what the world dished out.”

Bruneau’s use of the first-person narrative adeptly creates Maud’s world. The reader perches on her shoulder, like her crow Matilda might have, to feel the cruel bite of teasing: “Lift your chin off your nick! Cripple!” We see Everett’s parsimony in a tea bag drying on a line above the stove, dangling “like a mermaid’s purse pegged between two of his socks.” We feel the shame as she and her husband skulk through a junkyard for her own wedding present and at the piss pot’s odour when a visitor enters. And we celebrate with her that her art made “grown adults get over themselves and their troubles, even if just for a moment, and smile, just smile.”

Bruneau’s Lewis embodies contradictions inherent in all of us. She can be canny or trusting, suspicious or accepting, resentful or grateful. Though she says, “Joy is a slippery thing,” overall, she is optimistic. Knowing people looked at her house as if it was a cage, she says, “Well, if it was a cage, I tried to make it like one you would put a beautiful pet bird in.”

In the book, Lewis says, “So long as I could paint, I got through what the world dished out.”

We admire her spirit and hope that this is true. This is a fine book bringing credible depth to an artist who, for all that she contributed to Nova Scotia lore, is largely unknown.

About the Author: Carol Bruneau is the author of three short story collections and four novels. Her first novel, Purple for Sky, won the 2001 Thomas Head Raddall Atlantic Fiction Award and the Dartmouth Book Award. Her 2007 novel, Glass Voices, was a Globe and Mail Best Book. Her reviews, stories, and essays have appeared nationwide in newspapers, journals, and anthologies, and two of her novels have been published internationally. 

  • Brighten the Corner Where You Are: A Novel Inspired by the Life of Maud Lewis
  • Paperback : 360 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 1771088834
  • ISBN-13 : 978-1771088831
  • Publisher : Vagrant Press (Sept. 9 2020)

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