The theme of this summer's #ALUbookclub is love and relationships: While last month's book Echolocation was a dark meditation on relationships, this month's pick
Bad Ideas by Missy Marston (ECW Press) explores the complexities of love, family dynamics, and choices. Read on for more about the novel, and our short interview with Susan Renouf, the book's editor.
For our second read for summer book club, we buckled up for a ride with Missy Marston's
Bad Ideas (ECW Press), which proved to be all kinds of GOOD: funny, binge-worthy, and wrapped with little gems about love and family. Though we should insert a warning here: this novel may contain dangerous stunts with flying cars and town-shifting floods, and as you probably guessed, some very bad ideas.
Loosely inspired by Ken “the Crazy Canuck” Carter’s attempt to jump the St. Lawrence River in a rocket car, Bad Ideas is a highly engaging novel driven by three generations of gloriously imperfect women and a string of bad ideas. In a series of short chapters that are more like vignettes, Marston peeks under the hood of these characters' inner lives uncovering teenage pregnancy, marital affairs, unrequited love, familial love, and take-your-breath away love. At its heart, this is a novel about choices: you'll find yourself either empathizing with or hating on the decisions of the novel's characters. But whatever side you fall on each of them, Bad Ideas is a story you'll keep in the rearview long after you finish.
Below we chatted with ECW Press editor Susan Renouf about the editorial process behind the book and what it a must-publish to fit into the presses' list.
All Lit Up: What drew you to publish Bad Ideas? What first struck you about the manuscript that made it a must-publish book for ECW?
Susan Renouf: I was struck immediately by the authorial voice. It was so distinctive—confident, ironic, funny, caring. Missy made me care about what happened to these people from the opening page. I see so many competent manuscripts these days. The general calibre of writing is at a high-water mark in Canada, so a novel must really stand out as fresh and original. As Missy's did for me when it arrived on my desk. Bad Ideas tells a story of crazy love, of people on the margins who dare to dream, of a deeply felt world far away from the big city's chattering classes, and it does so in deliciously gorgeous language. How could I resist?
ALU: Were there any moments or characters that you took care to preserve in the story and why?
SR: Missy chose to write this book with an unusually generous number of different voices, including that of a young child. In less skilled hands than Missy's, it could have been cacophonous. My job as an editor was to keep a sharp eye on each character's chapters, to ensure each voice was clear and separate in its personality and that each contributed its unique point of view without jarring or rubbing up against the others. We needed to be careful in the pacing and the cadence so that each voice entered seamlessly into the flow and telling of the story.
ALU: What can ALU readers look forward to in their reading of Bad Ideas?
SR: Oh, there are so many treats in this novel. It's hilarious yet deeply moving, at once a period piece (it's set in the 1950s and 1970s) and contemporary in its tone. We get an unforgettable portrait of a town and its people moved and abandoned by the construction of the St. Lawrence Seaway. We get a tender, desperate stunt devil, and the normally practical factory worker who takes a chance on loving him. And we get a cast of characters swirling around them that I, at least, will never forget. This is a big-hearted book, bursting with life. A perfect thinking-person's feel-good read.
ALU: Are there any other books you can recommend from the ECW cannon for anyone who enjoyed Bad Ideas?
SR: Rose and Poe by Jack Todd, The Clay Girl by Heather Tucker, Refuge by Merilyn Simonds, and coming this fall, Honey by Brenda Brooks.
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