Our Chad Pelley proposes three novels that will satisfy your need for a great escape
One of the themes in this spring issue of Atlantic Books Today is “travel and adventure.” It’s a fitting theme for those of us who’ve endured the cold, snowy winter—but who are still months away from our summer getaways. To tide us over, here are some Atlantic-authored books that offer readers an opportunity to escape into a world of adventure.
A sister’s quest
We could, for example, join Aileen from Rebecca Silver Slayter’s In the Land of Birdfishes (HarperCollins) as she embarks on a cross-country quest to find her estranged sister.
As the novel opens, we meet the two young sisters, Mara and Aileen, and their overwhelmed father, who has permanently blindfolded his two daughters to “shield them from the misery of the world.” When a neighbour discovers the girls, they are immediately separated for treatment. Decades later, Aileen, spurred on by the loneliness of a dissolved relationship, goes looking for her sister. Her journey begins with a trip to the Yukon, where Aileen finds—not Mara, but Mara’s angry son, Jason. From there, Aileen’s life begins to change. This engaging story of secrets, sisters and circumstance is heightened by Slayter’s elegant writing.
Adventures in pot smuggling
If you haven’t read it yet, Lisa Moore’s Caught (Anansi) has everything you could want in a novel: plot, pace, and well-wrought characters. The novel’s prison escape, high-sea adventures and corrupt military men make the story almost cinematic. In the opening scenes, David Slaney is barrelling through the woods with the cops on his tail. He’s just escaped prison, having been sentenced for spearheading one of the biggest pot-smuggling operations in Canadian history.
Slaney is a man with an amazing zeal for adventure. The secondary narrative is about a lawman whose career hinges on capturing Slaney. Adding to this criminal-on-the-run novel is Moore’s decision to frame both Slaney and Patterson (the detective) as legitimately great guys—leading readers to root for both characters. This novel has great pacing and raises questions of morality and humanity.
Journey to Yugoslavia
Nicole Lundrigan’s fabulous fifth novel, The Widow Tree (Douglas & McIntyre), also offers a great escape—all the way to Yugoslavia.
In the opening pages of this literary mystery, three young friends—Janos, Nevena and Dorjan—stumble upon a bag of buried Roman coins in a cornfield. Their discovery could buy them a dream life—or it could buy them trouble. Immediately after Janos is trusted by the others to hide the coins, he goes missing. The novel alternates points of view between Janos’s love interest, his best friend and his devastated mother, who is on a quest to find her son. Did Janos rip off his best friend and short-change Nevena, whom he vowed to marry, or has something more sinister happened to the boy and the coins? This is the mystery of The Widow Tree, expertly rendered by Lundrigan.
Enjoy the trip.