Six Degrees of Separation – From Cusk to Good



This is the first Saturday of the month which means that it is time for “Six Degrees of Separation“, the book challenge, hosted by Kate from “Books are My Favourite and Best “.

This is such a fascinating challenge and one I am always eager to begin, then follow the search for connected books. The fun is in the search for connections and each chain that is created is always so different.

The starting point for us this round is to begin with Second Place by Rachel Cusk, who was a Booker Prize nominee for this book. Cusk was born in Canada but moved to Britain at age 8, where she still lives.

There were several possible paths to follow, but I decided to focus on Canadian women authors who had won awards (and there are many!)

 1st Degree: Another Canadian author who moved to Britain is Mary Lawson. Her novel A Town Called Solace was also on the 2021 Booker Prize longlist.

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“A Town Called Solace–the brilliant and emotionally radiant new novel from Mary Lawson, her first in nearly a decade–opens on a family in crisis: rebellious teenager Rose been missing for weeks with no word, and Rose’s younger sister, the feisty and fierce Clara, keeps a daily vigil at the living-room window, hoping for her sibling’s return.”

2nd Degree: Another novel by Lawson is Crow Lake which was her debut novel and which won several awards

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“Here is a gorgeous, slow-burning story set in the rural “badlands” of northern Ontario, where heartbreak and hardship are mirrored in the landscape. For the farming Pye family, life is a Greek tragedy where the sins of the fathers are visited on the sons, and terrible events occur—offstage.”

3rd Degree: Another novel set in northern Canada with intriguing characters is Late Nights on Air by Elizabeth Hay, also Canadian who won the Giller Prize for this book in 2007.

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“Harry Boyd, a hard-bitten refugee from failure in Toronto television, has returned to a small radio station in the Canadian North. There, in Yellowknife, in the summer of 1975, he falls in love with a voice on air, though the real woman, Dido Paris, is both a surprise and even more than he imagined.”

4th Degree: This led me to another Canadian Giller Prize winner – Alice Munro. She won the 2004 Giller Prize for her short story collection Runaway. (She also won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2013.)

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“The incomparable Alice Munro’s bestselling and rapturously acclaimed Runaway is a book of extraordinary stories about love and its infinite betrayals and surprises, from the title story about a young woman who, though she thinks she wants to, is incapable of leaving her husband, to three stories about a woman named Juliet and the emotions that complicate the luster of her intimate relationships.”

5th Degree: This of course, led to the great Canadian author Margaret Atwood, who has written numerous novels and won so many awards. Wilderness Tips, a book of short stories, was a finalist for the Governor General’s award in 1991.

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“In each of these tales Margaret Atwood deftly illuminates the single instant that shapes a whole life: in a few brief pages we watch as characters progress from the vulnerabilities of adolescence through the passions of youth into the precarious complexities of middle age.  By superimposing the past on the present, Atwood paints interior landscapes shaped by time, regret, and life’s lost chances”

6th Degree: This led finally, to another Canadian author, who won the 2020 Governor General Award– Michelle Good , for her amazing book Five Little Indians. It details the lives of 5 people impacted by residential schools.

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“Michelle Good’s FIVE LITTLE INDIANS, told from the alternating points of view of five former residential school students as they struggle to survive in 1960s Vancouver—one finding her way into the dangerous world of the American Indian movement; one finding unexpected strength in motherhood; and one unable to escape his demons – and the bonds of friendship that sustain them, inspired by the author’s experiences. “

I began with Second Place and ended with Five Little Indians– two books by Canadian women who have won numerous awards for their writing.

Next month (October 2, 2021), we’ll start with a (frightening) short story – The Lottery by Shirley Jackson.

20 thoughts on “Six Degrees of Separation – From Cusk to Good

  1. This post has so many tidbits of information that intrigued me. So many news things to learn! I didn’t even know the Canadian link for Cusk. Thanks for a great #6Degrees chain, as always~

  2. As it happens, I’ve read Crow Lake, and just before opening your post, had ordered A Town Called Solace from the library. But I wouldn’t turn my nose up at the chance to read any of these they all sound as though they need to be on my TBR list – thanks.

  3. I didn’t realise that Cusk was Canadian. That bit of information may have taken my chain in a different direction – but then again, may be not. Great chain, Bev!

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