“May the force be with you.” So Margaret Atwood wished to be the first finalist for the newly dubbed Atwood Gibson Writers’ Trust fiction prize, as the jury heads into the final deliberations for the coveted $60,000 prize.
The award was renamed this year to honor Atwood and her late husband, Graeme Gibson, a co-founder of the Writers’ Trust.
“Graeme Gibson, who has worked very hard to improve the number of writers in Canada and abroad, will be pleased to establish this award,” Atwood said in a statement. “No one knew better than what he did what a casual and often thankless business writing could be and how many obstacles—both external and internal—a writer must overcome.”
The finalists, who will receive $5,000 each, are:
“Everybody Knows Your Mom Is a Witch” by Rivka Galchen (Harper Perennial) “A powerful indictment of the abuse, gossip and accidental brutality of the crowd,” the jury said. “‘Everybody Knows Your Mother is a Witch’ sparkles with empathy and understanding, using the past to dissect and examine one of the essential crises of our time: the conflict between science and superstition.”
“We Want What We Want” by Alix Ohlin (House of Anansi Press) Granthshala reviewer said of the stories, “That’s what the magic is about, though: the seeming simplicity of the prose, the plain-spoken quality underpinning these tales, a fusion of craft, command, and expertise. hides a staggering level. Most readers will never notice it, slipping effortlessly into the story as Ohlin gets transfixed pulling a rabbit out of a hat.”
“Fight Night” by Miriam Toes In an interview with the (Knopf Canada) star, Toes spoke about storytelling as a vitality, saying, “I wanted the book to be exhilarating. I wanted it to be funny. I want to be able to tell my kids, Wanted to make grandchildren laugh, that’s for sure.” The jury said of the book that, “Mary Toes does not disappoint with her latest outing,” calling it “a careful balance of wit, irony, dark humor and philosophical thought (which) is a thoughtful and utterly enjoyable take on women.” Makes for Reading” Girls Navigating the World Together. The book has also been long-listed for the 2021 Giller Prize.
“August in Winter” by Guy Vanderhaeghe (McLelland and Stewart) A reviewer of Granthshala called it “one that is a master-class in character and storytelling, revealing a novelist at the height of his or her powers. Written in muscular prose with whiplash narrative drive, ‘August Into Winter’ is an epic tale of crime and punishment, the debilitating shadow of war and the liberating possibility of love against all odds.
“The Strangers” by Katharina Vermet (Hamish Hamilton Canada) “A beautiful, raw testament to the marginalized,” the jury said in a statement. “Cathertic and disturbing, ‘The Strangers’ provides important insight into the colonial brutality that still haunts Metis’ life.” Along with Tooz, Vermette has long been short-listed for the 2021 Giller Prize.
While the award sports a new name, it is the prestigious marquee award best known for fiction – known as the Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize and the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize – that was won by Andre Alexis, Gil Adamson, Alice Munro and Toez. Including the author. Won since established in 1997.
The funding for this new edition of the award is part of a $3 million donation made by businessman and BlackBerry co-CEO Jim Balsillie.
The winner will be announced on November 3 at a virtual awards ceremony writerstrust.com.