Beach Book Review: The Nearly Girl

The Nearly Girl

By Lisa de Nikolits

315 pages

Inanna Publications

Reviewed by Anna Killen

It’s fair to say your reviewer was in a romantic mood while reading The Nearly Girl – on a flight back to Toronto after a weekend wedding in Vancouver, full of salty Pacific Ocean air, nostalgia, and maybe a glass of white wine. But that doesn’t change the fact that the novel’s author, Lisa de Nikolits, knows how to capture that spark we call “love at first sight”. And not just love at first sight between lovers – although there are several tingly moments of that sort of connection – but the lesser examined spark that is instant comfort between family members and friends.

Not that love, or love at first sight, even, is the central theme to this novel, which is most of all an exploration of several peculiar and compelling characters and the increasingly frantic – and funny – situations they find themselves in.

These characters – a barefoot beatnik poet dad, a bodybuilding mom, a terrifying Trump-esque therapist, and a quirky, unconventional heroine, among many – twist and turn their way through therapy and life, taking the reader on a welcome journey into madness and self-reflection.

Fast-paced and difficult to pin down, genre-wise, De Nikolits’s sixth novel is as charming and eclectic as her cast of characters, and would make for a fun fall read.

East End author Cordelia Strube’s novel On the Shores of Darkness, There is Light is one of five finalists for the 2016 Toronto Book Award, which honours authors of books of merit that are evocative of Toronto.

Here’s what the judges said about Strube’s work:

“Driven by the wry and wrenching voice of eleven-year-old Harriet, Cordelia Strube’s On the Shores of Darkness, There is Light, pitches us full-tilt into the heart of human relationships. In spite of hapless adults failing her on every front, Harriet charts her own course with the materials at hand. Like her scavenged-object art projects, her sensibility manifests the collision of absurdity, pain, and resilience in her own family portrait. This singularly moving novel faces both the depths and the heights without flinching.”

The 2016 Toronto Book Awards will be presented at the Toronto Reference Library’s Appel Salon October 11 at 7 p.m. The award carries a $10,000 prize.

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