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Catherine Bush


April 12: Catherine Bush is a Page Turner. Are You?

Catherine Bush is the author of four highly acclaimed novels. Her most recent book is Accusation, which was listed as one of NOW Magazine's Best 10 Books of 2013, an Best Book and a Canada Reads Top 40 pick. Her influence on readers and other writers is profound, both because of the stories she tells and through her role as a teacher and mentor. Catherine has taught in programs around the world, and is currently the Co-Ordinator of the Creative Writing MFA at Guelph. As today's Page Turner Champion, she traces the roots of her own love of story, which are deeply planted in Toronto soil. Help Bookmark and Catherine to build a tribute to our stories across Canada; join us as a Page Turner today, and you could win a copy of Accusation. Perfect for reading at Sunnyside beach.

The other day I walked past a Victorian house north of Queen Street in Toronto’s Parkdale neighbourhood, some blocks from my own home. The house is wider than most Victorians, more like a farmhouse. Paint peels from the rosettes on its wooden roof trim. I’ve walked past it numerous times but this time it asserted itself in a new way. Suddenly I was eight again, searching the actual streets of Toronto from the back of my parents’ car for an imaginary house that features in Double Spell, Janet Lunn’s time-travel novel for children. In the present of the novel, the characters search the city for the mysterious house, first seen in a picture, using its wooden roof trim as a clue. And here I was, time-travelling myself, pulled back into this imagined world and my own past.

I’ve carried my childhood copy of Double Spell with me throughout my life as a talisman. It’s the first novel I read set in Toronto, the city in which I was born and grew up. It showed me how you can live in a city that’s both a real and an imaginary place. It said, Strange things can happen here so dare to imagine them. It said, the past is alive in the present. It said, imagining a place is a way of loving it.

There’s a ping of recognition when we encounter places we recognize in a work of fiction. Yet something even more extraordinary happens when the recognizable world is transformed by the things that writers imagine. When I walk my dog along Toronto’s Sunnyside beach, I see Gwendolyn McEwen’s Noman “coming out of the freezing lake with water dripping off him like quicksilver.” Thanks to All the Broken Things, the new novel by Page Turner Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer, I’m ready to stumble upon a Vietnamese boy and his bear companion hiding out in the oak forest of High Park. I want to live in this amplified, imagined city as well as the real one.

Yet we’re forgetful people. We forget our stories, and our cities and country become less real because of it. We become smaller too. Which is why Project Bookmark Canada is so important. Its markers are signposts to this larger map, the map of our possible worlds not just the known world. This is why I’ve become a Page Turner and hope you will too. If you become a Page Turner today, you'll be eligible to win a copy of my new novel Accusation. There’s even a brief scene at the Sunnyside beach in it, my tiny homage to McEwen’s Noman.