Gift Guide Week: Kerry Clare

Today’s ALU Gift Guide book recommendations are care of novelist and popular book blogger Kerry Clare who shares five fantastic BFF-inspired book picks. 


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Tune in this week as we share book recommendations from some of your favourite authors.  In a year of unprecedentedness, my connection to my best friends from high school has been a through-line—and possibly also one of the most fundamental through-lines of my life. When everything went wild back in March, I found such comfort in reverting to our old 1990s telephone habits, except our dads no longer got on the line to yell at us to hang up. Being an adult brings with it advantages. And I can’t wait until we can all hang out again.

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Fake It So Real  by Susan Sanford Blades (Nightwood Editions)

The nostalgic ‘80s/’90s bent in Susan Sanford Blades debut novel-in-stories recalls my friends, though we were never as badass as the characters in this book, all of whom could have actually done with a few BFFs in their lives. And so without such connection, the women in this book are searching—for moorings, for identity, satiation. In his blurb, Alexander Macleod compares Fake It So Real to the work of Alice Munro, and I think that’s spot on—this is Lives of Girls and Women, but with a punk soundtrack. Blades depicts girlhood and womanhood in startling and brilliant complexity.

Available on All Lit Up.


Glass Beads by Dawn Dumont (Thistledown Press)

Another novel-in-stories, which is no accident, because this is a form that highlights the multiplicity of perspective, which anyone with best friends knows all about. I loved this book, which traces four Indigenous friends from the 1990s and into the future as they come of age and confront the realities of adulthood. The ties between the four are deeply wound, binding, ever changing, time and experience bringing them together and apart and then together again. With the dialogue of a smart and funny TV sitcom coupled with the embrace of tough and urgent issues, plus rich and compelling characterization, Glass Beads is a standout. I can’t wait for Dawn Dumont’s next book.

Available on All Lit Up.


The Last Goldfish by Anita Lahey (Biblioasis)

Anita Lahey’s memoir is a monument to friendship and to her friend Louisa who died of cancer when they were 22. A friendship that began in grade nine French class, and persisted through high school in the early 1990s, The Last Goldfish shows the way one’s teen years can be so enriched with sparkling possibility because of friends and the doors they open for us. The two go through their teen years together and are roommates at university when Louisa is diagnosed with cancer. Lahey herself is on the cusp of her whole life, as her friend is on the verge of losing hers, and she explores this strange conjunction 25 years later, how impossible it was to understand it then or even now.

Available on All Lit Up.




Double Teenage by Joni Murphy (Book*hug Press)

“In this world/ there were two kinds of girls,/ Celine and Julie were neither.” I love that possibility, that you don’t need to be a kind of girl at all, and that with the power of friendship, girls can be so much more than themselves (which is still a lot). In her debut novel, Joni Murphy (whose next book Talking Animals came out this year) testifies to the power and significance of girls, a radical and subversive notion in a society that undermines girls and their agency at every opportunity. I loved the novel and that while its cultural reference points were familiar (Celine and Julie and I are near contemporaries) it was also unlike anything else I’ve ever read before. Double Teenage interrogates girlhood, its pleasures and dangers, and the society that’s complicit in making this stage in life so fraught.

Available on All Lit Up



Crow by Amy Spurway (Goose Lane Editions)

Is it cheating, because this is a book I gave to my BFFs already? But it was well received, so I’ll keep it on my list. I first read Crow nearly two years ago now, and it’s a book I still haven’t gotten over. Has there ever been anyone else in all of literature like Stacey Fortune, who returns home to her Cape Breton roots when she is diagnosed with incurable brain tumours? Doesn’t exactly sound like a hoot, right? But it’s one of the most hilarious books I’ve ever read, a narrative voice that gets locked in your head, and a story full of twists and turns and surprises. Crow is about the parts of yourself and your past that you can’t outrun, no matter how hard you try, and a celebration of those people who know you better than you know yourself.

Available on All Lit Up.

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Kerry Clare’s first novel, Mitzi Bytes, was called “entertaining, engaging and timely” by the Toronto Star, who also noted that it “heralds the arrival of a fantastic, fun new novelist on the Canadian scene.” She is editor of The M Word: Conversations About Motherhood, a National Magazine Award-nominated essayist, and editor of Canadian books website She writes about books and reading at her popular blog, Pickle Me This and lives in Toronto with her family.

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Thanks so much to Kerry for these fantastic, BFF-inspired book picks! Stay tuned this week for even more recommendations from authors.