ALU Book Club: Intro to Polar Vortex

To kick off our annual summer book club, we virtually chatted with Book*hug Press, the team that brought us Shani Mootoo’s newest novel Polar Vortex. 


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Get 15% off Polar Vortex until August 31 with promo code ALUBOOKCLUB!

This July we’re getting swept up in Shani Mootoo’s Polar Vortex, an irresistibly readable novel about a day in the life of Priya and Alexandra, a day that will change everything about the life they’ve crafted in the lake-side community of Prince Edward County.We were hooked from the first page of this seductive and tension-filled novel of secrets, deceptions, and revenge that’s at once a complex fully-realized character piece and a thrilling, masterful narrative. In it, Priya moves between the present with her wife, Alex, and her past memories as she’s preparing for the arrival of an old close friend Prakash whose already revealing cracks in Priya and Alex’s relationship even before he arrives. Will Prakash’s visit help or hurt them? Before we share more our own thoughts next week, we went behind-the-scenes with the team at Book*hug Press who published Polar Vortex to find out what drew them to Shani Mootoo’s work and the editorial and cover design process for this gem of a book.All Lit Up: This is Shani Mootoo’s first book with Book*hug Press. What drew you to her work? What made Polar Vortex a must-publish for Book*hug?Book*hug Press: We are long time fans of Shani’s work and so we were beyond thrilled when her agent sent us the manuscript. We both began reading it right away and were immediately drawn to the high literary writing as well as the intimate, seductive, and tension-filled story. We knew just a few pages into reading the manuscript that we were going to make an offer to acquire the publication rights.We also love the setting of the book, which while not officially named, is Prince Edward County. We were aware of the fact that Shani and her partner had relocated to the County, and it was exciting to us that this was the first time she set a book there.You may like to know that we have acquired another book by Shani—a poetry collection that will also include some of her photographs—which is scheduled for publication in Spring 2022. In case you didn’t already know, Shani is also an incredible visual artist!All Lit Up: Can you tell us a bit about the editorial process behind Polar Vortex?BP: When we first submitted our offer to Shani’s agent, she set up a call between the three of us so that we could discuss the details and expand upon our editorial vision for the manuscript.We were so grateful to discover that Shani also shared our vision. When the deal was final, we contracted Meg Story to work with Shani as her editor—Meg is the former acquisitions and developmental editor at Tin House in the US (where she edited such books as Us, Conductors by Sean Michaels, Little Sister by Barbara Gowdy, and The Search for Heinrich Schlögel by Martha Baillie). We’ve been working with Meg for the last few years and felt she would be a great editor to work with Shani (and she was!) We read several drafts of the manuscript throughout the editorial process and it was such a thrill to see the novel come together the way it did with each subsequent edit. Once Meg and Shani completed all the substantive and line edits, Stuart Ross came in to do copy edits.All Lit Up: Did anything surprising happen on the way to publication? Any anecdotes you would like to share?BP: Shortly after we acquired the novel for publication, we went to visit Shani and her partner Deborah in Prince Edward County for the day. It was the first time we all met together in person. Deborah and Shani prepared a lovely lunch for all of us to enjoy together, and after that we retired to their sunroom (where we got to meet their fabulous parrots, which made our son Cole’s entire day!) Following this, Shani invited us to go outside to visit art studio, where she showed us several paintings and photographs. It was such a wonderful day and we feel it really helped to connect all of us together. We spoke very openly about our collective visions for the book—from editing, to marketing and promotion, to cover design, we touched upon everything. It was such a special day. All Lit Up: What can ALU readers look forward to in their reading of Polar Vortex?BP: Polar Vortex is a powerful story of secrets, deceptions, and revenge. It probes such questions as: Are we ever free from our pasts? Can we ever truly know the people we are closest to? Jade Colbert says it best in a review she wrote for The Globe and Mail: “Polar Vortex is an unsettling novel about how secrets always come back to get us – especially the secrets we’ve managed to keep from ourselves.”

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 If you’re not ready to commit to Polar Vortex yet, why not read a passage first and then buy a copy for 15% off?Here’s what’s in store for book club throughout July:
  • July 8 – All Lit Up staff discussion + reading questions (for your own reading crew)
  • July 15 – Author Shani Mootoo joins us to answer our questions about her book 
  • July 22 – We offer follow-up reads to Polar Vortex from the ALU bookshelves
And don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Twitter for further, impromptu discussion. Hop on the hashtag #ALUbookclub to send us comments and questions!