What The Word On The Street is Reading: Toronto Book Awards

This year, we are happy to welcome back our Toronto Book Awards‘ bloggers, Christine and Carol Sweeton – our mother/daughter blogging team! They will be reading and reviewing the finalists for this year’s Toronto Book Awards, which will be awarded on October 9, 2013. To read more about Christine and Carol, click here.

First up is Giant a novel by Aga Maksimowska, published by Pedlar Press.

ImageAbout the Book:

How does one fit in a new country if she’s a “giant freak,” doesn’t speak the language and can barely comprehend the bizarre things happening both back in her motherland and in her body? In a voice reminiscent of Heather O’Neill’s Lullabies for Little Criminals, Aga Maksimowska tells the story of 11-year-old Gosia, a Polish girl whose already-difficult coming of age is intensified by an incomprehensible and sudden move to Canada. Gosia is forced to undergo the tumults of puberty in a foreign land far from her beloved grandparents who remain in Poland where they participate in the struggle to rebuild and reinvent the old republic. Like many children of migrants, Gosia, unsure of her identity, weaves a new way of living, one that includes Toronto’s multi-ethnic influences and old familial traditions.

Chris and Carol’s review:

Aga Maksimowska’s debut novel, Giant, is a moving story about a pre-teen girl dealing with adolescence in two very different worlds: communism and Canada. “You can’t have your feet in two different places: one in Poland, one in Canada, because that’s a massive step that will likely rip you in two,” the young narrator, Gosia, explains.

The story, told from Gosia’s point of view, is divided into two parts, the first half set in Poland where Gosia is being raised by her grandparents after her mother left to go work in Canada. It was interesting to experience the unique moment of place and time presented in this first part of the novel, Poland shortly after the end of the communist regime. Maksimowska writes beautifully and the reader can almost feel the cramped Soviet-era apartment and smell the Polish cooking.

The second half of the novel takes  the narrator and reader to Canada, when Gosia moves to Toronto to live with her mother; the many misunderstandings and misconceptions of adolescence are perfectly described with the confusion multiplied by immigration and the struggle to make your way in a country whose language and social rules are unknown. Based firmly in family relationships, the story is ultimately about the adaptability and achievement of the human spirit and the often frustrating complexity that living in Toronto can present to newcomers.

See Aga Maksimowska read from her nominated title, Giant, at the Toronto Book Awards Tent at 12:30pm and again at 4:30pm.

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