Where in Canada: Toronto Love

Julie Roorda’s A Thousand Consolations (Brindle & Glass Publishing) is a literary rom-com that walks the eclectic streets of Toronto from Roncesvalles Village to Dupont Street to York University following Paula, a candle-making widow and Hector, a three-fingered pianist on the run from Mexican drug lords.


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A Thousand Consolations (Brindle & Glass Publishing, 2017)
Julie Roorda is the author of three volumes of poetry, a collection of stories, and a novel for young adults. Her fiction has appeared in periodicals across Canada including The Fiddlehead and The New Quarterly. Her story, “How to Tell if Your Frog is Dead,” was included in the 2014 Journey Prize Anthology. She lives in Ontario.
One of the themes of A Thousand Consolations is how the signs and synchronicities of everyday life offer meaning when the grand narratives – dreams and ambitions and plans – fall apart or fail to provide fulfillment. As such, it was necessary to set the novel in a place rich and varied enough to toss up these signals, contributing to dialogue and plot much like a character would. In this case, it is downtown Toronto which, in the diversity of its neighbourhoods, plays several roles in the book’s two intertwining love stories. 
Main character Paula’s first home with her husband Teddy is in a coach house near Dupont and Ossington, backing onto the rail lands that form a kind of Bohemian corridor through Toronto’s west end. Old warehouses, factories, and other eclectic buildings are home and studio to artists of all kinds: sculptors, musicians, acrobats, or in the case of Paula and Teddy, actors. The setting fosters a spirit of imagination that encourages Paula and Teddy’s creative pursuits, and eggs them on as they made their wedding an outlandish and memorable neighbourhood spectacle.Later, when widowed Paula meets Hector, she lives on Sorauren Avenue, in what’s called Roncesvalles Village, not far from that rail corridor, but very different in character with its mix of seniors and young families, its schools and delis and bakeries. But that is the nature of Toronto – close your eyes for one minute while riding the streetcar, and when you open them again, you may find you’ve left one universe and entered another. The College streetcar is like a matchmaker for Paula and Hector, ferrying them to their first date at a Portuguese restaurant where a sardine appetizer evokes Hector’s memory of a childhood “miracle” and one of the stories that wins Paula’s heart.The couple takes that same streetcar on Christmas morning, crossing the Don Valley to the city’s east end. Saint Francis of Assisi Church, just south of where that streetcar passes through Little Italy, plays a crucial role, provoking laughter with its peculiar (and possibly heretical) Christmas display, joy with its music and rummage sales, and shivers with its ghostly silence at night. Whether a narrow escape through an alley rendered hazardous by feasting raccoons, an ugly Christmas sweater party in a high-rise Harbourfront condo complete with mistletoe-bearing drone, or a wintry night’s gathering of refugee claimants from as far afield as the Czech Republic, Syria, Mexico and Somalia, the wide and wild variety of settings one finds in Toronto – a virtual cast of colourful characters – makes it possible to encounter the unexpected at every turn.* * *Thank you to Tori Elliott at Brindle & Glass Publishing for sharing A Thousand Consolations with us. For more Where in Canada, click here.