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Five Canadian books vie for County Reads 2017 title

The County Reads 2017 defenders are Monica Alyea, Dawn Ayer, Bill McMahon, Lenny Epstein and John Burns.

UPDATE: – Winner this year, Monica Aylea defending Etta and Otto and Russel and James by Emma Hooper.

The stage is set for five County residents to champion their chosen Canadian books in this year’s eighth annual County Reads event.

“It’s much like CBC’s annual Canada Reads event, but, of course, is much better,” says Anne Preston, chair of the Arts Council’s County Reads committee, who is stepping down this year and handing the “books” to Barbara Sweet, CEO of the Prince Edward Public Libraries.

“We are grateful for Anne’s hard work and organization that makes the event easy to run,” said Sweet. “We are happy the library can keep this popular event part of the Authors’ Festival.”

Ken Murray will moderate this year’s County Reads on opening night of the Authors’ Festival, Thursday, April 20 upstairs, at Books & Company.

“This is a formalization of what people have been doing for years,” said Preston. “And it provides a great reading list. The whole eveing people are talking about books. They tumble out into the night and they’re still talking about books.”

Etta and Otto and Russel and James
by Emma Hooper
defended by Monica Alyea

Etta, 83, has never seen the ocean. So, early one morning she takes a rifle, some chocolate, and her best boots and begins walking the 3,232 kms from rural Saskatchewan, eastward, to the sea. As she walks further toward the crashing waves, the lines among memory, illusion and reality blur.

Witches of New York
by Ami Mckay
defended by Dawn Ayer

The year is 1880 – 200 years after the trials in Salem and Adelaide Thom has left her life in the sideshow to open a tea shop with another young woman who feels it’s finally safe enough to describe herself as a witch – a former medical student and gardien de sorts (keeper of spells), Together the cater to Manhattan’s high society ladies, specializing in cures, palmistry and potions – and in guarding the secrets of their clients.

A Fine Balance
by Rohinton Mistry
defended by John Burns

The time is 1975. The government has just declared a Sate of Emergency, in whose upheavals four strangers – a spirited widow, a student and two tailors who have fled the caste violence of their native village – will be thrust together, forced to share one apartment and an uncertain future.

A Disappearance in Damascus
by Deborah Campbell
defended by Lenny Epstein
The story begins in 2007 when Deborah Campbell travels undercover to Damascus to report on the exodus of Iraquis into Syria following the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. There she meets and hires Ahlam, a refugee working as a “fixer” – providing Western media with trustworthy information and contacts. But one morning Ahlam is seized in front of Campbell’s eyes. She spends the months that follow desperately trying to find her – all the while fearing she could be next.

Water for Elephants
by Sara Gruen
defended by Bill McMahon
Though he may not speak of them, the memories still dwell inside Jacob Jankowski’s 90-something year old mind. Memories of himself as a young man, tossed by fate onto a rickety train that was home to the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. Memories of a world filled with freaks and clowns, with wonder and pain and anger and passion; a world with its own narrow, irrational rules, its own way of life and its own way of death.

The debate starts Thursday, April 20 at 7 p.m. at Books & Company. Tickets are $5.

In last month’s Canada Reads competition, writer and rapper Humble the Poet emerged victorious defending ‘Fifteen Dogs’, by Andre Alexis, a thought-provoking novel following 15 dogs gifted a human consciousness by a pair of Greek Gods. The book won the Giller Prize in 2015.

Runner up was Company Town, a dystopian thriller championed by opera star Measha Brueggergosman. The other three books were The Break, by Katherena Vermette, Nostalgia, by M.G. Vassanji and The Right to be Cold, by Sheila Watt-Cloutier.

Copies of all the books are available at the County’s libraries, (also electronically) and the book store. Extras were ordered to handle the many book clubs in the County.

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