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Book review: The Circle, by Dave Eggers

Reviewed by Aaron Kreuter

When Mae Holland, the protagonist in Dave Eggers’ newest novel, The Circle, is given the opportunity to work at the Circle, the internet and technology company that has replaced Google and Facebook, she is thrilled. Instead of working the dead-end job at her hometown’s power company, she gets to be a part of the company that has revolutionized the internet through TruYou, a program that amalgamates all of your online identities and makes identity theft and anonymity a thing of the past. If it wasn’t for Annie, her college roommate who rose fast through the company ranks and got Mae the job, she wouldn’t be here: “A million people, a billion, wanted be where Mae was at this moment, entering this atrium, thirty feet high and shot through with California light, on her first day working for the only company that really mattered at all.”

The Circle opens with Mae’s first day in her new position in ‘customer experience,’ and she is filled with hope and excitement. And at first it does seem like a dream job: the campus is full of beautiful architecture, sports facilities, cooking classes, musicians-in-residence, almost nightly themed celebrations. The food in the cafeteria is free; everybody is happy; and the health care, which Mae is able to get her MS-suffering dad enrolled in, is excellent.


Book review and contest: Infidelity, by Stacey May Fowles

Toronto-based writer Stacey May Fowles’ latest novel, Infidelity, tells the story of a married poet and a hairdresser tangled up in a passionate affair, and Bookclub-in-a-Box is excited to be giving away a copy of the book to one reader! To enter the contest, just email laura [at] bookclubinabox.com with your name and mailing address (GTA residents only) by Wednesday, Oct. 2. And don’t feel guilty if you want to read this book again and again—your other books will understand.

Want to meet Stacey May Fowles at the book’s official launch? Here are the event’s details:

Infidelity book launch
Thursday, September 26, 7–9 p.m.
No One Writes to the Colonel
460 College St., Toronto (near Bathurst St.)
FREE admission

Reviewed by Laura Godfrey

Many books have been written about the destructiveness of affairs, but Stacey May Fowles’ newest novel, Infidelity, does so with an intricacy and thoughtfulness that is rare, and often poetic. Set in Toronto, the story follows Ronnie, a hairdresser in her mid-thirties whose live-in boyfriend, Aaron, tries to convince her to settle down. One evening, while she is helping Aaron cater a party, Ronnie sees a stranger who piques her interest. Soon the two have struck up a flirtatious conversation, each initially concealing their own long-term relationship—it turns out Charlie, the stranger at the party, is a well-known poet with a wife and an autistic son.


Book review: Mount Pleasant, by Don Gillmor

Reviewed by Aaron Kreuter

For Harry Salter, the main character in Don Gillmor’s new novel, Mount Pleasant, financial debt has broken out of its abstract realm and taken on real, audible qualities. He hears it as a loud hum, as a siren’s screech, as a “roaring in his ears, an insistent martial sound that arrived in waves.” For Harry, an untenured political science professor used to the upper-middle-class life he lives with his wife and son in Toronto, relieving his debt has become his mission, his goal, his quest. However, when his wealthy money-manager father Dale dies, and it turns out the millions Harry was expecting are not coming his way, Harry’s only viable chance of getting out of debt vanishes.

The world Harry inhabits is a world of dinner parties, large houses, and larger bank accounts—or so Harry thought. When Dale’s will gets read, and Harry discovers he’s only been left a few thousand dollars, he embarks to discover what, exactly, happened to Dale’s money. Is it possible he blew it all in his end-of-life dementia? Could someone in Dale’s money-managing firm, the ruthless Press Lunden, the prostitute-frequenting Dick Ebbets, have stolen it? What, if anything, does his mother, recently moved out of her Rosedale mansion and into a much smaller apartment backing onto the novel’s eponymous cemetery, know about it? With Dale’s latest peroxide-haired girlfriend on Harry’s case, with his debt getting louder and louder, Harry enters into a world of back-stabbing, immorality, and financial scandal to find an answer to these questions.


Book review: Life After Life, by Kate Atkinson

Reviewed by Kathleen Keenan

What would you do differently if you had the chance to live your life over again? Ursula Todd, the protagonist of Kate Atkinson’s gripping new novel Life After Life, faces this unusual question. Every time she dies — the first time shortly after her birth, umbilical cord wrapped around her neck, on a snowy night in 1910 — she is reborn. As she grows up over and over again, she has the chance to fix her past mistakes and even alter the course of history.

Aside from this quirk, Ursula seems to live a fairly normal life with her parents and siblings in the English countryside. As she grows up, she drowns, falls off a roof, and is even beaten to death — but she is always born again on the same cold winter night with faint memories of her previous life. Thanks to these memories, she is able to change her decisions and subtly alter her own fate.