The BMO Winterset Award is the province’s richest prize for a book of any genre by a Newfoundlander. The fact that all genres are eligible means the shortlist really is the best 3 books of the year out of Newfoundland & Labrador. The winner takes home $12,500, and each finalist, $3,000.
This year’s shortlist is composed of 3 stellar novels, by 3 very different writers: a fresh new name in fiction (Bridget Canning), a mid-career multi-hatted artist (Joel Thomas Hynes), and a literary icon (Wayne Johnston). Each author’s novel is radiant for different reasons, proving that the greatest books shine through, no matter what it is that makes them shine.
This year’s winner will be crowned at Government House on March 22nd. Come and hear all the authors read and discuss their books at The Rooms the night before, 7pm.
Mass shootings. Internet memes. Online stalkers. Twitter wars. This book has a finger on the pulse, and a skewer through our zeitgeist. Wanda Jaynes’ struggle to find coconut milk in Dominion quickly becomes a fight for her life, when she finds herself at the centre of a mass shooting in her neighbourhood grocery store. Not even thinking, she flings her can of coconut milk at the shooter and lays him out cold. It’s caught on camera and she’s crowned a hero worldwide: millions of YouTube watches, dozens of memes, offers of free pizza for life, requests for her to write columns, be on shows. That sounds like serious subject matter, and it is. But in Bridget Canning’s capable hands, this is also a highly hilarious and very relatable read. The writing is electric, precise, and witty. Her character development is profound. Few writers can balance humour and drama so perfectly on the same page.
In his latest offering, Hynes’ depiction of the Newfoundland Hard Ticket is more nuanced than ever. This is his best novel yet, hands down, and his win of this year’s Governor Generals Award for Fiction confirms it. The main character is on the run, from our coast to the west coast, with the ashes of his lover under his arm. He’s on the run from his past, his enemies, the police, and the cold hard facts of who he really is. Hynes’s narrative hook is sharper than a chef’s knife: good luck putting this one down in time for a good night’s sleep. The stylistically clipped and rushed sentences match the hurried angry mind of this angry young protagonist you’ll never quite forget. It’s a refreshingly brash voice for CanLit.
Wayne Johnston builds authentic worlds into which he effortlessly weaves Newfoundland history, and unforgettable characters with sharply rendered conflicts. He is a masterful storyteller in step with the greats and classics, and his latest, First Snow, Last Light is one of his strongest offerings to date. It is what its jacket promises, “An epic family mystery with a powerful, surprise ending.” During an early winter storm, the child of an affluent father comes home from school to an empty house, and spends the rest of his life searching for the father he knows would never just leave him like that. For fans of his body of work, this novel also sees the return of Sheilagh Fielding as a peripheral but pivotal character.