Tag Archives: Escape the Ordinary

Escape the Ordinary – Great GTA Authors

Image of Escape the Ordinary Adult Summer Reading Club

A new feminist blog becomes an overnight sensation when a wildly popular talk show host stumbles upon it, tweets about it, and promotes it on her show. But, who, exactly, is the Eve behind the blog Eve of Equality? This pleasurable and smart story offers a timely commentary on a subject that is flooding our headlines, newsfeeds, Twitter streams, and conversations.

Book Cover of Poles Apart

To be honest, I have never thought that feminism issues still widely exist. Today, we have many successful women world leaders. Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel, US president candidate Hillary Clinton, and previous British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher are just a few to be named. However, the synopsis of Poles Apart drew me to the topic, and I didn’t regret that I had spent my precious summer outdoor time reading this book. One of Fallis’ strengths is his ability to make serious loaded subjects into delightful gentle reads without compromising the overall impact. Poles Apart has offered me new perspectives on feminism. After I read the book, I now think that feminism issues do still exist, but it’s just in a much subtler way. The novel demands me to rethink some touchy social topics, such as legalizing prostitution. It also confronts my feeling on choices such as a man versus a woman staying home full-time to take care of children and household duties.

I did read some critical reviews that commented the novel was not as suspenseful and realistic as it should be. I understand where these comments are coming from, but I also want to say that Fallis is clearly not writing a thriller. I guess the best thing about fiction is the author is free to depict a world that he thinks we should have instead of the stressful reality that we are currently in. There is nothing wrong to offer some fantasy and hope. I agree it would be nicer if the novel had a climax with more tension, but I think the plot did offer some interesting drama and twists, for example, the dance pole that intruded into Everett’s apartment and the little romantic story between Everett and Megan. I think Beverly’s relationship with her son is especially thought provoking and revealing the reason behind has made the plot quite engaging. I believe this part also serves to prompt the audience to think deeper after hearing the optimistic story about Everett’s mother – I often hear women’s struggles about balancing between taking care of their families and having successful careers, but I don’t hear many of these stories from men.  I am sure men also have regrets on such choices, but people’s perception on what women should choose and sacrifice seem to quite different than what they expect from men.

I must also say that Fallis is very good at creating endearing characters who have faults. Everett is lovely but his random crush on Shawna is just hilarious. Everett’s parents are a bit too stereotype to me, but I do love these strong-minded but funny people …

Check out more titles from our Great GTA Authors. You won’t be disappointed! Also check out a CBC reading list from Terry Fallis on the books that made him a feminist.


Discussion questions:

  • What is feminism to you? Are there any personal experiences that you would like to share with us?
  • Fallis offered many details in his writing, for example, how Everett blogged and how Everett’s father got trained to recover from stroke. What do you think about these nuances?
  • Everett was lucky enough to have great friends like Lewis and Shawna from the XY club. What if he actually encountered some real organized crime people? What would you think the storyline might have been changed to?

Escape the Ordinary – Wanderlust


As a girl, Gloria Steinem’s life was filled with cross-country travel, a search for adventure, and exposure to the lives of all types of people across the United States. Now, as an adult and a world-renowned activist, Steinem recounts how her life of travel, conversations with strangers, and desire for change led to a life of activism and leadership. Along with her own growth, Steinem details the growth of a movement for equality that’s still being fought today.

I admit I didn’t know much about Gloria Steinem before picking up My Life on the Road. I knew her name was synonymous with the 70s feminist movement and women’s rights advocacy, but that was pretty much where my knowledge ended. After finishing her latest novel, my impression is: Gloria Steinem was—and, at the age of 82, still is—a force to be reckoned with.

My Life on the Road is a retelling of Steinem’s life of activism, a story that she weaves using the motif of travel. In this book she acknowledges the influence that her nomadic childhood had on the rest of her life; her father was a larger-than-life character who refused to put down roots anywhere, packing his family up often and moving across the United States. Steinem found herself mimicking this restless wandering, despite yearning for a solid home as a child. But she credits her father for instilling the love of travel in her, which allowed her to lead the proactive life she has led.

Steinem’s life of travel is so extensive that it seems almost unbelievable at times. Never settling in one place allowed Steinem to organize the National Women’s Conference in 1977, ride in a cab with (and be insulted by) Saul Bellows, witness Martin Luther King Jr’s famous speech first-hand, and wave goodbye to John F. Kennedy the day before he was shot.

Steinem did not fight solely for feminism, as I had previously thought, but for equality across genders, races, sexualities, etc. Her writing is insightful and challenging. She offers alternate ways of looking at well-worn social issues, making them still topical in 2016 despite being cultivated in the 1970s. For example, her meditations on the lack of diverse representation in women’s rights are what we call “intersectional feminism” today. Steinem encourages everyone—male and female—to travel as much as they can, to experience the world for what it is and not for how it’s presented in the media. After all, being in new places and meeting new people breaks the “supposedly enlightened idea that there are two sides to every question. In fact, many questions have three or seven or a dozen sides.”


Share your thoughts in the comments! Some questions to consider are:

1. Steinem writes “[The road] leads us out of denial and into reality, out of theory and into practice, out of caution and into action, out of statistics and into stories…” Have you ever been on a trip that changed the way you saw something? Has an experience with travel ever opened your eyes to something new?

2. “Perhaps our need to escape into media is a misplaced desire for the journey.” Do you think this is true? Have you ever used a book, movie, television show, etc. to satisfy a craving for travel and experience?

3. Steinem is of the opinion that meeting in person always trumps gatherings on the Internet. In an increasingly digital world, is her dismissal of the Internet’s power fair? Or do you think it should be given more credit for its ability to bring people together?

Escape the Ordinary – Staff Pick


Will’s life consists of two worlds: Outside and Inside. Raised by an eccentric and fiercely agoraphobic mother, Will has never stepped foot Outside—that is, until he can no longer contain his curiosity. Armed with only a helmet, Will finally steps out of the house and winds up befriending Jonah, who teaches him the thrills of skateboarding. But life Outside turns threatening when a boy goes missing, and Jonah and Will decide to investigate the mystery themselves. Suddenly Will finds himself thrown into a dangerous underworld, leaving his mother to face her greatest fear: will she be brave enough to save her son?

Thunder Bay is a long, long way from southern Ontario. Almost 1000 km sit between it and Toronto, and the difference between the two is something author Michael Christie is very familiar with. Christie was born and raised in Thunder Bay, and his portrait of it always feels entirely authentic, if quite unflattering. The city is not the focal point of If I Fall, If I Die but it permeates every chapter, every scene: the abandoned grain silos that punctuate the city’s geography, the seedy bars and strip malls, the concrete and empty streets that serve as a skateboarder’s playground, the list goes on. The economic decline of the city sits like an oppressive weight over everything, like the heavy snow that falls and hardens into a layer of ice.

Facing all of this for the first time in his life is Will, who has spent all of his eleven years living “Inside”, what he calls the interior of his house. Will is believably innocent for a boy who’s never stepped Outside, and he forms a quick attachment to the first peer he meets when he steps out of the house. The friendships Will makes highlight the tensions between First Nations citizens and everyone else, as he befriends first Marcus and then Jonah, both First Nations boys. Will is brazen in his newfound freedom, and wants Jonah to be too, but everything Jonah does is tempered with the knowledge that the cops are just waiting for him to mess up. At school and around authority, Jonah stays silent, refusing to give anyone fuel for discrimination.

What Christie does best is weave his nuanced characters into a firm sense of place. Will is slightly too fearless to be fully believable—for someone who’s never experienced danger, he’s remarkably calm after being attacked by a wolf—although Christie makes it work for the story. Jonah, elegant and careful, feels more real. But it’s Diane, the agoraphobic mother of Will, that really stands out. Christie chronicles her growing anxiety that keeps her locked in her home, and he does it honestly.  Diane never seems pathetic (except through her son’s eyes) because Christie makes her fear seem real.

Personally, I wish Christie would have stuck with this character-driven mode of storytelling, but halfway through he switches the focus onto the disappearance of Marcus, and the book loses much of its depth in favour of a contrived mystery, like a darker version of the Hardy Boys. There are gangsters and presumed-dead uncles and trained wolves, and suddenly the book feels less like an exploration of mental illness, race relations and economic despair and more like a Hollywood movie. The mystery didn’t grip me as much as the characters did. I liked the novel, but I think I would have loved it had the mystery stayed in the background.

If you enjoy Christie’s writing, check out his previous work of short stories, The Beggar’s Garden.


Some questions to consider about If I Fall, If I Die are:

1. The Irish Times calls the novel “an allegory of the rampant anxiety of the modern age.” Do you agree with this? Why or why not?

2. Will encounters serious criminals, wild animals, and has his life threatened several times. But at the end of the novel, he “still loved the Outside so intensely that he worried he could die of it.” Is this realistic?

3. Consider the skateboarding motif. Will describes the activity as “mastery — a seizure of control, not a loss. That the board did their bidding — danced or flipped or spun successfully beneath them — afforded the most sublime pleasures of their short lives.” How is this true for Will? For Jonah?