1st Legion of Utopia: An epic tale of killers, queers and the birth of Canadian socialism (written by James Davidge, art by Bob Prodor and Nick Johnson, Renegade Arts Entertainment, 2019). Set in Calgary in the 1930s in the Great Depression, this well written, vividly illustrated graphic novel illuminates a time when Alberta, for a brief moment, was the epicentre of the fight for social justice in Canada. Aimed at adults and young adult readers alike, the story revolves around the founding of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF)—the first national party dedicated to advocating for workers’ rights. Fictional characters mingle with real-life people such as J.S. Woodsworth (the CCF’s first leader); all come to Calgary to help improve the world.
The Wheaton (by Joanne Jackson, Stonehouse Publishing, 2019). Retired mailman John Davis, the protagonist of this novel and a self-described “un-empathetic man,” once told his wife “never to move me to a nursing home.” But she died, and Davis, in his early 60s, gets a job helping run an “independent living facility for people not saddled with too many health problems.” His motivations are unclear, though gradually the reader learns he has regrets about his past, his self-absorption and his quick temper with family. He can barely acknowledge that pain, let alone resolve it. In the long-term care facility Davis finds a society of people who “carry on as best they can,” who are also challenged by the burdens and gifts of memory, and who become his friends—people he helps and who help him to open up and change. Overall, this is a gentle and emotionally engaging novel.