Tag Archives: Angie Abdou

The Search for Truth can be a Difficult One | Review of “In Case I Go” by Angie Abdou (2017) Arsenal Pulp Press

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We all try to find out truths in our travels through life. Be it historical truths, truths in our relationships and our desires, or even the truths behind our names. But the thing is that when we gain understanding of those truths, they may not be the beautiful or enlightening elements that we thought they may be. That is the main theme that I felt was in Angie Abdou’s book In Case I Go.

Chapter One Page 15

We quit the city to save our lives.

Mama says, “The city quit us, and that made leaving easy.” But that’s silly. Cities don’t care who goes or who stays. This new town, though, it cares. Here, the very ground we live on cares.

Mama quits many things – coffee, sugar, wheat. Late at night, when she thinks I’m sleeping, her finger tracing a half moon around my ear, her warm toothpaste-breath against my forehead, she says, “I want to be a better person, Elijah. For you.”

I’m only Elijah in the dark. By day, I’m Eli. It’s a nickname I like when she says it to rhyme with sly, but not when she makes it rhyme with belly. Elly Belly. That’s a baby name, and Lucy claims I’ve never been a baby. Not really.

“You were born knowing everything, Elly Belly. You came out of that incubator like it was your first year of college.”

I can’t help but feel that Angie has empty many bits of her soul to give us this book. The story of Eli and his parents returning to their family home is a familiar one for many of us. Yet as in many cases, that return isn’t as calming and restorative as the family had hoped. And as young Eli friends Mary, a young Ktunaxa girl, spirits begin to haunt him, making him question the past actions of his family and the longings and desires of the present-day adults around him.

Chapter Seven Page 93

Sometimes, if I try, I can hold onto a dream for a long time after the sun rises. One time I dreamt of Lucy and Nicholas and me planning a road trip, but we couldn’t actually decide what way to go.

“Kiboshed by our own indecision before we even get out of the driveway,” Nicholas said. I remembered that –kiboshed. I liked that word. Lucy must have liked it too because she laughed and laughed, her hand on Nicholas’s bare thigh in a way that made me a bit embarrassed, even in the dream.

“Well,” the dream-me said, trying not to show how bad I wanted this road trip. “We’ve come this far wet. We might as well keep going that way.”

I held onto that dream for days. I told Lucy if we could somehow dial up dreams on Netflix, I would like to watch my Road Trip Dream forever to see where we ended up and if we stayed that happy. But it slid away, like almost all dreams do.

While I have been a big fan of Abdou’s earlier writings, this is a book that touched me like no other cultural artifact has for a long time. She has captured so much of the angst,  fears and concerns of our time here – questions about identity, family, heritage, relations with Indigenous people, and so forth – all in the thoughts, dreams and possessed visions that young Eli has. This is crafted, well thought-out and deeply emotional writing that deserves to be considered literature and read by all.

Pages 218-219

I put my hand out and touch Lucy’s forearm. She doesn’t look my way, and I won’t check to see if she has tears. I run my hand up and down her arm and squeeze. I’m not mad anymore – not about the way she feels about Sam, not about what she’s done to Nicholas, not about the twisting and squishing in my stomach when I saw Sam’s hand on Lucy’s hip in the museum. I understand.

She loves two.

Or maybe it’s not that. Not the same. There are different kinds of love. We want to simplify love and desire – squeeze them into easy words – so we can pretend to understand. We want there to be a right way and a wrong way to live. Right and wrong should be easy. Lucy loves Nicholas, she knows Nicholas, but she wants Sam. She only wants Sam. She wants only Sam. Her life, though belongs to Nicholas. Tamara might not understand that pull, the war between belonging and wanting, but I understand. I squeeze Lucy’s forearm one more time and then lean my forehead against it. She puts her forehead on the back of my head, and her hand on the back of my neck, gentle and full of love. I relax into it.

This love is the simple kind.

Angie Abdou has not only given readers what I consider one of the best books of 2017 with In Case I Go, but one of the most touching books I have read in a long time. I am eagerly waiting to get this book signed and then giving it a treasured spot on my shelf.

*****

Link to Arsenal Pulp Press’s website for In Case I Go

Link to Angie Abdou’s website

Link to my Q&A with Angie Abdou | “With this 2017 novel, I went in a different direction, writing many scenes in the early 1900s and including a fantastical element, something I’ve never before experimented with.”

 

 

 

“With this 2017 novel, I went in a different direction, writing many scenes in the early 1900s and including a fantastical element, something I’ve never before experimented with.” | Q&A with novelist Angie Abdou on her new book “In Case I Go.”

Angie Abdou is one of the most popular writers on the Canadian literary scene right now. Since being a finalist for the Canada Reads series a few years ago, her works seem to reflect a reality that is consistent with many readers in their day-to-day lives. Now with her latest work, Abdou digs a bit into the past a bit. Abdou was kind enough to answer a few questions not only her upcoming work In Case I Go, but also a few of her upcoming projects as well for me.

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1) First off, could you give an outline of “In Case I Go” ?

Eli’s parents (Lucy and Nicholas) have reached a rough spot in their marriage and decide to leave the hectic city in an attempt to find peace in a small tourist, mining town in the mountains. They move into a little miner shack originally owned by Eli’s great-great grandfather and namesake, Elijah Mountain. While Lucy and Nicholas deal with their own adult problems, Eli befriends the next door neighbours, a Ktunaxa man named Sam and his troubled niece named Mary.  Gradually it becomes clear that Eli must make amends to Mary. They’re haunted by the mistakes of their ancestors, and are challenged to find a way to reconcile.

2)  Was there any research involved in writing this book? Is there anything you are hoping to accomplish with it?

 
Yes, I did a lot of research. First, I read theoretical texts about history and haunting. I didn’t intend to write a historical novel but, of course, I kept getting pulled that way. Initially, I resisted scenes set in the far past, but eventually I had to give up that resistance. The characters are, after all, haunted by … the past. Once I realized the book had to go there, the Fernie Museum Director Ron Ullrich proved tremendously useful – with details on everything from what kitchen clocks would look like to what women’s bathing suits would look like to what men would have stayed home from the war to how much one might pay for a prostitute.  What do I hope to accomplish? My main hope is that readers will be entertained and compelled to finish the book, enthusiastically even. After that, what each reader takes away from the book is up to that reader. But I’m very curious. I’m ready to hear from readers.

3) There is some confusion over official release dates of the book – Can you confirm the official date of its release? Are you planning a reading/book tour in connection for it? If yes, are there any particular dates/events that you are looking forward to attending?

The book will launch September 14th in Fernie BC. The launch is co-hosted by the Fernie Heritage Library (as the first BOOKED! event of the season) (Link to BOOKED! event page) and the Fernie Museum (as the opening event for the fall Chautauqua). (Link to the Fernie Museum website)
 

4) You mentioned in our last Q&A “I learn things with each book I write, and apply those lessons to the next.” Now that you have written another book, do you still feel that is true?

Lately, I’ve heard myself saying that each book is a reaction against the last book.  My 2014 novel BETWEEN was very contemporary and rooted in realism. With this 2017 novel, I went in a different direction, writing many scenes in the early 1900s and including a fantastical element, something I’ve never before experimented with.  With this 2017 novel, my biggest challenge was the Ktunaxa element, what stories I could tell, whose voices I could depict, and how to do so as carefully and respectfully as possible. With my 2018 book, I’m reacting against that challenge and telling a story that is entirely my own: the memoir of a hockey mom.

5) Your fan page on Facebook mentions that your hockey memoir “HOME ICE: Reflections of a Reluctant Hockey Mom” will be published next year. Am I right in assuming this is your first non-fiction book that has been published? How did you like writing this book as opposed to your fiction work?

I have this delusion around writing. The last book I wrote was always “super fun” to write and the next book I write will be “super easy.” The book I”m currently writing is always torture.  I”m currently writing HOME ICE.

6) You also mention on Facebook that you have a collection of essays on sports literature being published. Could you give a bit of a description about that work? How did you get involved with that?

My day job is university professor, and I often teach sport literature courses. These types of courses are increasing in popularity in Canada and US, and as author of a swimming-wrestling novel (THE BONE CAGE), I frequently get invited to speak to students of sport lit. During these visits, professors have complained about a lack of secondary sources, essays to which they might direct their students as samples or use as material to write lectures. Jamie Dopp and I put together this collection in response to that complaint. There are ten essays on the Canadian sport lit books taught most frequently, novels like King Leary, The Good Body, and Shoeless Joe.

7) (So here is the dreaded question I ask writers but I get yelled at by my followers of my blog if I don’t ask it.) Are you working on any new fiction right now? If yes, are there any details you can share?

My attention right now is focused on the hockey-mom memoir. But there are some fiction ideas simmering – nothing I could articulate yet.

8) As I talk to a lot of writers right now, they are getting a little fatigued with social media. Yet, many fans of their writings use social media to connect with their favourite writers. Are you still comfortable with social media as a means to connect with your fan base?

Finding a balance with social media and not letting it take up time that could be directed to more real activities is always a challenge. However, for now, I do think I need to be there. I appreciate the way it keeps me connected to writing and reading communities throughout the country. It allows me to live remotely without feeling isolated or disconnected.

9) Is Fernie still an idyllic place for you to live in and write? How is your family reacting to your writing career?

My husband tolerates my writing career, barely.  I travel a lot with writing commitments and when I am home I’m often stressed about deadlines. He’s not a writer, or even much of a reader, so he tires of both those things – the absence and the anxiety. My kids love books, though, and they’re proud that I’m a writer, though they talk as if “Angie Abdou, the writer” is someone different than “Mom.”  “Mom” is far less interesting.
In 2015, I moved to Alberta for work – I’m a professor at Athabasca University – but I still own a place in Fernie and am actively involved in the arts community there, helping run a writers’ series called BOOK!.  Yes, it is idyllic.
*****

“I’m excited to see the book out in the world and, hopefully, be a part of the conversations it sparks.” | Q&A with novelist Angie Abdou

Novelist Angie Abdou took time out of her busy schedule a few years ago to have a coffee with a fan.
Novelist Angie Abdou took time out of her busy schedule a few years ago to have a coffee with a fan.

There probably isn’t a more personable and more hard-working novelist on the Canlit scene than Angie Abdou. Her previous books have won numerous praise and awards over the past years. Her new novel Between (Link to my review) is already creating some interesting discussions before it’s release and will be the must-read of the 2014 fall releases.

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1) You are about the launch your novel “Between” in September. What are your feelings about it right now? How have the advance reviews been for it so far?
A: I was extraordinarily nervous about this book a few months ago. In it, I explore some uncomfortable truths about parenthood … and about contemporary North American life in general. That discomfort leads to a certain amount of anxiety on my part. However, initial responses have started coming in, and they have been very positive. That has given me a very welcome confidence boost. Now I’m excited to see the book out in the world and, hopefully, be a part of the conversations it sparks.
2) I know you mentioned the idea of this book when we met in Fernie a few years ago but how long have you been working on it? Was it a steady process in writing it or did you put it away for a while?
A: I always find the “how long” question so hard to answer. It’s not a matter of simply counting the days. A novel incorporates my whole life experience to date. This one does so more than my others. There was also a gap in which I had to rethink the  last third of the book. I did a major rewrite of that final section based on the wise advice of Susan Safyan, my amazing editor at Arsenal Pulp Press. I suppose if pressed to answer the “how long” question, I’d say since the release of The Canterbury Trail in 2011. So, Between is the product three years of thinking, researching, drafting, revising, rethinking, rewriting, and editing.
3) The press release that came with the advance reading copy of “Between” quotes you in saying that the book ‘originated with your own discomfort’ in bringing in a nanny from the Philippines. Is your character of Vero pretty much an extension of yourself or did you do any research for writing this book?
A: Oh boy – anyone who reads Between will know why I’m *very * uncomfortable with readers thinking of her as an extension of me. God no!  I did a fair amount of research for her character (army tanks & swinger resorts spring to mind). Her liberal guilt is my own. I did far more research, of course, for the Filipina nanny, Ligaya.
4) Who are your favourite writers? What are you reading right now?
A: I have so many favourite writers. I’m scared to start listing for fear of leaving out others. Here are the first ten who spring to my mind, in no order: Timothy Taylor, Miriam Toews, Alison Pick, Jowita Bydlowska, Marina Endicott, Paul Quarrington, Bill Gaston, J.M. Coetzee, Jonathan Franzen, John Updike, John Irving.  See, that’s 11, and I am just getting warmed up.
5) Has your writing changed much since you started writing? If yes, how so?
A: Yes. I ran into a reader on the weekend who was half way through Between and, in the most animated terms, he told me it was my best novel yet. I said, “Oh good. So I am learning something!” Of course, I learn things with each book I write, and apply those lessons to the next. Also, though, what I’m trying to do with each novel changes. With this novel, I was working with intensity and vulnerability.
6) Are all your speaking engagements for “Between” set up as of today? Is doing public readings of your works something that you enjoy to do?
A: I have about 25 speaking engagements set up for the fall. I plan to do more through the winter and in the spring. I love getting out and speaking with readers – that travel is the reward for long years of solitary work.
7) Have any of your books been the topic of discussions for book clubs? If yes, did you participate in the discussions at all and was it something that you enjoyed?
A: I have attended many book clubs with all three of my previous books, and it’s something I enjoy a great deal. When I do regular book events, I have to assume the audience has not yet read the books, and I make sure there are no “spoilers” in my talk. In that way, those events are more promotional – I ‘m hoping to encourage people to get out and buy/read the book. At book clubs, I can assume everyone has read the book so we can get into deeper discussions.
8) Are you working on anything new right now? If yes, are there details you can share with your fans?
A: I overheard my husband telling a friend about my next book and he said “She’s writing a ghost story, but in her own Angie way.” I really loved that and the “in her own Angie way” has helped me with the writing. That description, which I wouldn’t have included, has given me a much-appreciated freedom.
9) I’ve been asking a lot of writers about their experiences using social media and the majority of them respond with a comment that the time spent using those platforms is a ‘necessary distraction.’ I know you are active on both Facebook and Twitter and it seems to me that you enjoy using them. Am I right in assuming that? Does using social media help you with your writing at all?
A: Absolutely. I would feel very cut off from writers and readers without social media. I live in a small/remote city. Twitter and Facebook keep me connected to the much larger community of Canadian writers and readers. I might have given up on a “writing life” in Fernie (to a certain extent) without the larger network that I get from social media.
10) Fernie seems to be an idyllic place for a writer to live in. I know you are active with teaching and organizing literary festivals there yet some of its residents are notably not impressed with your writing. (A recent reaction by a reader about your book The Caterbury Trail made the rounds on the national news circuits.) Are you planning to continue living in Fernie for the next while and – if yes –  how does living there help your writing?
A: I am definitely in Fernie for the long haul. We’re in the process of building our dream home (with long-term dreams of a writer-in-residence suite on the same property). I have definitely made an online fuss about a couple very negative experiences with Fernie readers, but what I haven’t done as publically (shame on me!) is talk about all the wonderfully positive reader experiences I have in Fernie. Both the local bookstore (Polar Peek Books & Treasures) and the Fernie Heritage Library are very supportive of me and my work. There were over one hundred people at my last book launch celebrating its release. For every bad interaction with a Fernie reader, I have had hundreds of positive experiences. Unfortunately, I (like so many people) tend to make the mistake of putting more emphasis on negative experiences than positive ones.  This time I’m going to give equal weight to each person who stops me in the street to enthusiastically express appreciation for my books. When I do that, I’ll have no complaints about Fernie. Of course, I sometimes crave the anonymity that a big city provides, but I’m well aware of the pay-off I get in exchange for that anonymity. I’m already looking forward to the Fernie launch of BETWEEN on September 26 at the Fernie Heritage Library which will, I hope, be a full-house and a wonderful community celebration.
*****

Culture-shocking our own Reality | Review of “Between” by Angie Abdou (2014) Arsenal Pulp Press

Thank you to Arsenal Pulp Press for sending me an advance copy of this book.

The ability of a writer to craft a  story showing the ills of a society around themselves is a fantastic gift to have. Angie Abdou is one such writer. She has crafted many a good book illuminating many feelings, issues and concerns in our society, using a great combination of serious prose and humour. Many of her fans have been patiently waiting for her novel Between for some time now and they will not be disappointed.

The novel deals with Vero (short for Veronique). She and her husband Shane are having a hard time being stuck in suburbia with all the trapping that come with it – kids, jobs, cars, etc. After some soul searching, they both decide to bring in a woman from the Philippines as a nanny.  Ligaya has her own back story. She had left her family back home and had been in a miserable situation in Hong Kong before coming to Canada. Vero tries hard to makes “Lili ” comfortable in the situation in Canada but things continue to fall apart for her.

Abdou has been working on this novel for many years now and her hard work has paid off. Between should be one of the must reads  of the Fall 2014 season. Abdou has successfully reflected society here and she should be proud of her work.

Between will be released in September 2014

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Link to Angie Abdou’s website

Link to Arsenal Pulp Press’ page for Between

Here we go!

So here we are at 2014! And so begins my little blog here. I hope you find it interesting as much as I do writing it.

I consider this more of a reading journal than a blog. I have always enjoyed literature and in the past couple of years, more and more people have been asking me what exactly I am reading. This forum allows me not only to tell people what I am reading (and why) but gives me the opportunity to review what I have read.

I have a media background but as the world becomes faster and meaner, I am truly convinced that there has to be a better  and more serious means to document the human condition. A few hours a day to review “what we are” and “why we do what we do”  would make the world a better place. But we can’t do that with quick sound bits or pithy phrases.

This year should be a great years for books in general. I have heard in the grape vine that writers such as Angie Abdou, Katherine Govier,  and  Mark Lavorato  have great novels waiting in the winds.

And yes, I am building a personal library. If you follow me on some of the social media fronts, you will see that I collect books and bookmarks. I believe that books are a time-honored craft that is in danger of dying, and if it does die, humanity will loose it’s soul.

But enough of that. Let’s go see what is out there to be read.