ALU Summer Book Club: Humane Staff Discussion

The ALU team met to delve deeper into the world of Amiskwaciy and its residents – Hazel, Missy, Maengan, Spider the dog, Devin, and many more – the folks who made our July book club pick Humane by Anna Marie Sewell (Stonehouse Publishing) feel so alive. Read on to catch some of the highlights of our discussion below, and get our questions for your own book club meeting.

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1. The title is a play on being Human vs being Humane. To you, what is the difference, and how was this explored in the book?

Mandy: Being humane requires kindness and empathy. This is a novel that really explores that concept through activism. Hazel, Missy, and Devin, in particular, are characters that are driven by a deep sense of empathy and care for community.Tan: Being human is a state of being; being humane is a state of mind.

2. Which characters in Humane did you resonate with the most?

Laura: Hazel – I loved her voice and that dual consciousness of being a fierce and worried mother and also knowing you’ve made mistakes as a mother, with inevitable consequences.Mandy: Hazel, the narrator, has such a compelling voice. I found myself wanting to read her sections the most. Missy was also a character I really gravitated towards. She’s got a really strong moral compass but she’s also flawed, especially in her reactions to others. All the characters are really well written; they felt like real people despite how mythical the story was at times. A difficult thing to pull off as a writer, I think!Lauren: Sandra’s particular wisdom – and gardening – is very aspirational to me.

3. Humane is set in the near future. What were the changes/developments in culture and geography that you noted?

Tan: So many changes! Tech and mass immigration from India turns Amiskwaciy into an international hub, and a massive geothermal battery called “UpTop” supports its infrastructure after fracking caused violent earthquakes in Alberta.Lauren: I loved how “walkable” Amiskwaciy was; that it had achieved a sort of 15-minute community with interconnected bike paths, accessible nature, etc. It was neat to see an alternative to just, more of the same. Anna Marie Sewell should be a city planner.

4. Humane is a multi-genre novel; part-crime, part folklore, part family drama. Which wins out for you – how would you lead with describing the book (to a friend, for example) and why?

Laura: For me, the family drama seems dominant. And I love that departed family members play a role and affect current events, and this is taken at face value.Mandy: All the parts work really well together, but I’d probably describe it as a mystery novel that blends Indigenous folklore into his main plot. I mean it’s much more than that—I’m oversimplifying—but the hook lies in the crime/mystery and that’s a good entry point to a complex novel. Plus I’d want everyone to witness one of the more compelling narrators I’ve read in a while. She’s got such a specific and unique voice!Lauren: I found the book had some horror elements too, which I wasn’t expecting but welcomed! Some of the depictions of a failing memory of what happened / an unreliable narrator gave me horror vibes.

5. Did you clock any foreshadowing in the book? What in particular?

Laura: The “dog” character Spider, early on, seemed to me to have human characteristics, and I felt compelled to know what would happen to him.Tan: The previous convergence of characters in Ottawa seemed interesting to me: both Hazel and Maengan were there at the same time for different conferences, and Hazel saved Maengan’s life.

6. Where do you hope Sewell takes the sequel, Urbane? Or, if you’ve read it already, what can readers look especially forward to?

Lauren: I cheated and read the synopsis, and we’re promised more Shanaya and more Devin, which is a win-win for me.Tan: I did read Urbane (extra credit!) and loved that the book tackles the urban-rural divide, just like Humane looked at people and animals within a city setting.

Download our discussion questions in a handy printable PDF for your own book club – clicking begins a PDF download.

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Have you read Humane, yet? Let us know your answers to our ALU book club discussion qs in the comments below! And, if you have a picture of your own book club reading Humane, share with us @alllitupcanada.There’s still time to get Humane for 15% off until the end of the summer. Next week, we wrap things up with book recommendations for folks who loved Humane (and, as you can see above, how could you not?!).