Banter / Read With Us


 Watch Our Interview with Emma Donoghue on The Pull of the Stars


It’s almost time for our first Zed Book Club virtual event, with Emma Donoghue joining me from her home in London, Ont., to discuss our first book club title, The Pull of the Stars. You can watch it right here on Wednesday, Feb. 24 at 7 p.m. Eastern Time. You are in for a treat, because Donoghue is a delight: funny, erudite and thoughtful.

A huge thanks to all our Zoomer readers who logged on to Facebook on Feb. 12 to watch and comment on our second book club discussion on The Pull of the Stars. I couldn’t have done it without John and Barbara in Edmonton, Hazel in Advocate Harbour, N.S., and Carol in Brandon, Man.

It was a far-ranging conversation as we talked about everything from infant and maternal mortality in childbirth, the role of the Catholic Church in social services in 1918 Dublin, public-health messaging during a pandemic and whether we saw the relationship between Bridie and nurse Julia Power coming (not one of us did).

For those who are not on Facebook or who missed the livestream, here’s a recording of the conversation.



On Jan. 22, we had our first Facebook Live discussion on the first half of he book with Elizabeth in Toronto, Doris in St. Lambert, Que., Jacqui in Victoria and Billie in Port Moody, B.C., so they get huge props for volunteering to be my first guests. We talked about the eerie parallels between the flu pandemic in Dublin in the waning days of the First World War and the COVID-19 pandemic raging outside our doors today, among other things. Here’s a recording of that conversation:



I’ve already had the pleasure of interviewing Emma Donoghue, and you can whet your appetite for our live event by reading my story here. And if you have any burning questions for Donoghue about the book, email me at [email protected] or send me a direct message on Facebook. I’ll be including some in the Q+A portion of the event.

The Pull of the Stars is set over three days in a makeshift Dublin maternity ward during the First World War and the 1918 flu pandemic. Donoghue’s story will prompt discussions on class, religion, feminism, politics and health care, not to mention pandemics.

The author, of course, was born in the Irish city, the youngest of eight children, but moved to London, Ont., after she met her partner Chris, a professor at Western University. That’s where Donoghue wrote her bestseller The Room, which was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and made into a 2015 movie that netted four Oscar nominations and one win for Brie Larson as Best Actress. Sadly, the stage adaptation – a musical – was set to open in Donoghue’s Canadian hometown in March, but was cancelled by the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, Donoghue has also published The Wonder, which is also being made into a film, and 2018’s Akin.

As Donoghue told me in our July interview, she loves to talk about her books after they’ve been published so she can discuss the whole plot, particularly the ending. “Sometimes a couple of years on you get very good discussions that are full of spoilers, especially online, where you can just hammer out every detail with your fans,” she said.

So write down your burning questions and, in the meantime, mark Feb. 24 at 7 p.m. on your calendars to be sure you don’t miss our first Zed Book Club author event. See you then! – Kim Honey





1Indians on VacationThomas King

Mimi, a free-spirited artist, drags her husband, Bird, a curmudgeonly writer, to
Prague on a holiday quest to track down the medicine bundle Mimi’s Uncle Leroy took overseas 100 years before. They sightsee through capitals of the so-called cradle of Western civilization only to realize people the world over aren’t so different after all. Because this is Thomas King, there are killer one-liners that will make you laugh out loud and some weighty introspection on Canada’s abject treatment of its Indigenous people, not to mention marriage, class, race, mental health and the reasons we travel.

The Canadian-American author of Greek, Cherokee and German heritage, who lives in Guelph, Ont., has written more than a dozen award-winning fiction and non-fiction books, including The Back of the Turtle and The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America. Indians on Vacation has just been nominated for a 2020 Writer’s Trust award, and the jury called it “a novel that serves grief and anger with a constant yet somehow always-unexpected wit.”

There’s lots to talk about here with King, the ultimate raconteur.

2RidgerunnerGil Adamson

In this sequel to her debut novel The Outlander, which won the First Novel Award in 2008, the Toronto author picks up the story of 19-year-old Mary Boulton, who, in the first book, was on the run after murdering her abusive husband.

Adamson, who made the Giller Prize shortlist with this book, took pains to
ensure Ridgerunner stands on its own. “After all, Jack Boulton, the kid in this book, has no idea about his parents’ lives before he came on the scene.” That said, there are a few “Easter eggs” for fans of The Outlander. Described as “part literary Western and part historical mystery,” Ridgerunner is set in Alberta’s Rocky Mountains and Montana in 1917, as war rages in Europe. The book will provoke readers to deliberate on religion, internment camps, love, parenting, homesteading and the ethics of stealing.

3Songs for the End of the WorldSaleema Nawaz

In this prophetic novel, Montreal writer Saleema Nawaz provides a glimmer of hope: she digs into human connections during an infectious outbreak and finds resiliency and camaraderie among a trio of New York characters whose lives are linked by the fictional calamity that begins in 2020.

Nawaz, whose 2013 debut novel Bone and Bread won the Quebec Writers’
Federation Paragraphe Hugh MacLennan fiction prize, started writing Songs for the End of the World the same year. By the time it came out, she was living it. Shortages of medical supplies, quarantine fatigue and front-line workers risking their lives to save patients – it’s all here.

In an interview with Maisonneueve magazine, Nawaz said she didn’t want her
pandemic world to descend into post-apocalyptic chaos where it’s every person for themselves.

“My instincts really are that people on the whole, when there’s a crisis, behave with goodwill and social responsibility.”

A meditation on loss, grief, love, hope and relationships, Songs strikes a hopeful note and provides an opening for the exploration of the indomitability of the human spirit.

4The FinderWill Ferguson

The Toronto-based author of the Giller Prize-winning novel 419 is back with The Finder, a character- and travel-driven tale of a man who searches the world for lost treasures, such as missing Fabergé eggs, the last reel of Alfred Hitchcock’s first film and Muhammad Ali’s Olympic gold medal.

Ferguson, a regular contributor to Zoomer magazine’s travel section, takes the
reader on an epic odyssey that touches down in Japan’s Hateruma island, the
Australian outback, New Zealand and the wilds of Scotland. Along the way, he
introduces us to a burnt-out travel writer, a war photographer, an Interpol agent tracking the elusive finder as well as the finder himself – a shadowy figure who profits from locating lost objects by selling them to the highest bidder. Ferguson even points readers to the real-life people who inspired his characters in his author’s notes.

This literary thriller will prompt exchanges about travel and travel writing, identity, redemption, loss and longing and the pursuit of dreams at any cost.