Try as she might, nothing is quite right in Dawn's life. A young Indigenous woman eager to leave a city full of bad memories, she's moved to a new place to start over, but she's haunted by messages from her dead mother and thoughts of her estranged brother, Cody, who is imprisoned back in their prairie town for a violent crime.
When her new start falls apart, she's forced back home, only to find, to her shock, that not only has Cody been released, but he's got a new friend constantly by his side, a charismatic fellow ex-prisoner who is gathering seemingly devoted followers for God only knows what purpose.
This tense premise kicks off Adriana Chartrand's electric debut novel, An Ordinary Violence (House of Anansi Press), a nuanced horror story that delves into colonization, otherworldly elements, and the eerie blurring of the past and present.
Chartrand weaves elements of Indigenous storytelling into a thoughtful, haunting, at times even darkly funny exploration of family, trauma, and the thin barrier between what we know and the mysteries we cannot solve, be they supernatural, emotional, or interpersonal.
To celebrate Chartrand's debut, which has been praised as "cinematic [and] haunting" (Chicago Review of Books) and "utterly enthralling and unsettling to your bones" (Jesse Wente), we asked her to share about the books that have played a role in her life as a reader and writer. She revealed six books and how they've impacted her journey.
The WAR Series: Writers as Readers with Adriana Chartrand
A book that made me cry:
The Good Girls: An Ordinary Killing by Sonia Faleiro. This book is well-researched and well-written, nuanced, and sharply observed. It's also very sad, obviously, given the subject matter.
A book I feel that I should have read but haven’t:
Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. I really enjoy his nonfiction writing and often return to it, but haven't been able to get through Infinite Jest. Maybe because I'm not a tennis fan.
The book I have re-read many times:
Mean Boy by Lynn Coady. This is one of my favourite books - it's heartfelt, poignant, and very funny. Such a good lens on university English lit life, and the shattering of ideals.
A book I loved that I think has been overlooked:
Red Dog, Red Dog by Patrick Lane. I don’t know what constitutes overlooked but I feel more people should read it. A combination of lyrical storytelling and gritty reality that I quite love.
My all time favourite book series:
The His Dark Materials series by Philip Pullman. Love the world-building, the characters, and the stories – he's a brilliant writer who deals in themes not often seen in, ostensibly, YA literature.
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What I plan on reading next:
Sideways: The City Google Couldn't Buy by Josh O'Kane. It's the story of the Google Sidewalk Labs project in Toronto, which spectacularly fell apart amidst privacy and other concerns, after promising a new utopian 'smart' neighborhood by the waterfront.
Adriana Chartrand is a mixed-race Native woman, born and raised in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Her father is Red River Métis (Michif), born and raised in the Métis community of St. Laurent, and her mother is a mixed white settler from Manitoba. Adriana has two degrees in film studies and has previously worked in the social work field. She lives in Toronto and works in the film industry.