Tag Archives: Angie Abdou

Between — Angie Abdou

19 Feb

betweenPublisher: Arsenal Pulp Press
Released: October, 2014
Genre: adult, literary, Canadian fiction
Source: paperback copy from author for review




Vero and her husband Shane have moved out of the sweet suite above his parents’ garage and found themselves smack in the middle of adulthood―two kids, two cars, two jobs. They are not coping well. In response to their looming domestic breakdown, Vero and Shane get live-in help with their sons―a woman from the Philippines named Ligaya (which means happiness), whom the boys call LiLi. Vero justifies LiLi’s role in their home by insisting that she is part of their family, and she goes to great lengths in order to ease her conscience. But differences persist; Vero grapples with her overextended role as a mother and struggles to keep her marriage passionate, while LiLi silently bears the burden of a secret she left behind at home.

Between offers readers an intriguing, searing portrait of two women from two different cultures. At the same time, it satirizes contemporary love, marriage, and parenthood by exposing the sense of entitlement and superiority at the heart of upper-middle-class North American existence through a ubiquitous presence in it: the foreign nanny. Angie Abdou comically and tragically tackles the issue of international nannies by providing a window on motherhood where it is tangled up with class, career, labour, and desire.

From Goodreads.


This book. OMG THIS BOOK! I loved it SO HARD. It was beautiful and awkward and messy and real.

Okay, Vero: I don’t think I’ve ever read such an unlikeable yet completely sympathetic character. I mean, I spent most of the book not really liking her but at the same time I felt so goddamn bad for her and wanted to take her out for a tea or buy her some lavender essence oil or something. And I love when I’m conflicted about a character. Purely good or purely bad characters just don’t do it for me.

Ligaya was also a well-written, complicated character who really comes into her own by the end of the book. There’s one scene at the end with Ligaya, Vero and Shane and I was all like, “You go LiLI! You tell them how it is!” It was cool to watch her gain confidence in a very unexpected way.

Seriously, guys, the imperfections of all the characters are described perfectly.

Abdou’s use of language is exquisite and if I were to quote all of my favourite lines this review would be, well, pretty much the whole book. I rarely ever include direct quotes in my reviews, but here are two that took my breath away:

“The smile let Vero feel the earth under her feet.” — page 272

“The silence that follows is palatable, the air heavy with it. Vero imagines scooping it into her mouth, eating it like ice cream.” — page 293

I really can’t recommend this book enough. As with Abdou’s other books, Between will take its place on my favourite reads bookcase.


Review: The Canterbury Trail by Angie Abdou

8 Feb

Publisher: Brindle & Glass
Released: Feb 8th, 2011
Genre: Canadian literature
Purchased for my Kobo as soon as it was available.

It’s the last ski weekend of the season and a mishmash of snow-enthusiasts is on its way to a remote backwoods cabin. In an odd pilgrimage through the mountains, the townsfolk of Coalton—from the ski bum to the urbanite—embark on a bizarre adventure that walks the line between comedy and tragedy. As the rednecks mount their sleds and the hippies snowshoe through the cedar forest, we see rivals converge for the weekend. While readers follow the characters on their voyage up and over the mountain, stereotypes of ski-town culture fall away. Loco, the ski bum, is about to start his first real job; Alison, the urbanite, is forced to learn how to wield an avalanche shovel; and Michael, the real estate developer, is high on mushroom tea.

In a blend of mordant humour and heartbreak, Angie Abdou chronicles a day in the life of these industrious few as they attempt to conquer the mountain. In an avalanche of action, Angie Abdou explores the way in which people treat their fellow citizens and the landscape they love.

From Brindle & Glass website.

Holy smokin’ turtles! The Canterbury Trail is one Hell of a book. I mean, whether you’re into skiing, group dynamics or different ways to consume pot,  you’ll probably flip over this book, too.

For me, the idea of smooshing a diverse group of people into a ski cabin for the night is wicked cool. See, my educational background is in sociology and I’ve always been fascinate with group dynamics. And the group dynamics in The Canterbury Trail had me salivating for most of the book. It was almost like a Canadian backwoods winter reality TV show. But unlike reality TV shows where there are clear “good guys” and “bad guys”, the cast of The Canterbury Trail was all a mix of both. Every time it seemed like a character was clearly “the dick” or “the slut” Abdou gave a us a deeper peak into their being and it was clear that all was not as it seemed on the surface.

There are quite a few characters in this book and at first I thought I was going to need a cheat sheet just to keep up with everybody. But Abdou writes in such a way that keeping everyone straight was never an issues. Some chapters also saw multiple changes in point of view, which would normally make me want to pitch the book, but in this case it was done so seamlessly that I didn’t find it confusing or annoying.

Nature, and the mountains themselves, are characters in the book, and through Abdou’s writing you can tell she has a great love and respect for the outdoors. I read most of The Canterbury Trail during a snowstorm, which only added to my awe of her writing about the snow and nature and how perfectly she nailed each description. I was also in awe of why anyone in their right mind would want to hike for hours in the snow to ski, but hey, what can I say? I’m not the outdoorsy type.

I think the book’s ending may take some people by surprise, but I think it ended the only way that it could. And that’s all I’m going to say about that. (At least here, anyway. Angie? Expect an email from me, soon. :P)

I really loved this book. In fact, I think I actually loved it more than Abdou’s The Bone Cage, which I didn’t think possible. And The Canterbury Trail solidified Angie Abdou as one of my favorite writers.




My Canada Reads Pick

6 Feb

So, today is the day that I announce which book I would champion for Canada Reads. And as I sit here typing, I’m still not sure what my choice will be.  See, there are two books that I absolutely adored and a third that I loved.

I was going to do a tongue in cheek post where I cloned myself and each of me decided to champion one of the books I liked. But then I figured that was a bit of a wishy-washy cop-out. So here I sit, typing and rambling, while I try to get my brain – and my heart – to pick just one book.

*20 minutes later*

Okay, I’ve made my choice. I think. No, my mind is made-up. If I were to champion a book for Canada Reads, it would be – drum roll please –  Essex County by Jeff Lemire.

There, I said it. No taking it back. Buuuuuut, Angie Abdou’s The Bone Cage was a close, CLOSE second choice. I loved both books and was blown away by both books, but there was just something about Essex County that moved me more that any book has moved me in quite some time. I never thought I could be so touched my a graphic novel, which is part of the reason I was so affected by it.

So there you have it. My Canada Reads choice.

Review: The Bone Cage by Angie Abdou – Canada Reads

1 Feb

Publisher: NeWest Press
Released: Fall, 2007
Genre: Canadian fiction, general
Sent for review from the awesome CBC Books peeps.

Digger, an 85 kilo wrestler, and Sadie, a 26-year-old speed swimmer, stand on the verge of realizing every athlete’s dream—winning a gold medal at the Olympics. Both athletes are nearing the end of their careers, and are forced to confront the question: what happens to athletes when their bodies are too worn to compete? The blossoming relationship between Digger and Sadie is tested in the intense months leading up to the Olympics, as demanding training schedules, divided loyalties, and unpredicted obstacles take their draining toll. The Olympics, as both of them are painfully aware, will be the realization or the end of a life’s dream.

From NeWest Press website.

So, this review kicks off Canada Reads week here on the blog. The cool folks at CBC books gave me the opportunity to read all five Canada Reads contenders this year. (Merci!) I’ll be reviewing each finalist and then, the day before the big Canada Reads debates start, I’ll be announcing which book I’m backing.  Now, on to the review.

I promise to try not to gush too much. Or, rather, when I do gush I’ll try my darnedest to back it up with the reason that I’m gushing. Cuz there is no freaking way I can talk about this book without a bit of gushage happening.

I simpled loved The Bone Cage. LOVED IT. In fact, I was surprised by just how much I ended up loving this book. I knew it was probably going to be good, but I wasn’t expecting to end up loving it as much as I did, or forming such a strong attachment to both Digger and Sadie.

I know NOTHING about amateur or professional sports. Or at least I didn’t before I stated reading this book. I was instantly sucked into both the world of wrestling and swimming and was blown over by how much dedication it takes to be an athlete. I found it sad that, depending on the sport, an athlete could spend 90% of their time training and have to retire by the time they hit their late 20s. I mean, just imagine it: you have a passion, a drive and by the time most people are hitting their stride, you have to give it all up and try to figure out what to do with your life. This is the main thread through the book, but Abdou didn’t write it in a “waa-waa poor me” kinda way. Since both Digger and Sadie knew their whole career that the time would come when they would have to retire so young, they were very, not nonchalant, but not overly emotional about it, either. Me, on the other hand? Yeah, my emotions were all over the place.

I loved the relationship between Digger and Sadie. The two don’t actually meet until, oh, about halfway through the book, so by the time they do, the reader already knew the two of them as individuals, which was pretty cool. At first I was like “These two are going to become friends? I don’t see it.” But as they got to know each other I realized that they fit perfectly together.

I’m not a huge fan of flowery, self-indulgent prose. For me, I much prefer when a tree is just a tree. I think that’s another reason why I loved The Bone Cage so much. The writing was tight and crisp. It was descriptive, but without going overboard, if you know what I mean. Digger and Sadie’s story is told directly and honestly: these are not perfect characters, and Abdou lets us see that.

The Bone Cage is about sports, yes, but it is about so much more than that. It’s about family, friends, struggle, heartache, triumph and despair. But most importantly it’s about getting through anything and coming out the other side as undamaged as possible. And really, besides a Timmy’s double double, is there anything more Canadian than that?