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Little Fish

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WINNER, Lambda Literary Award; Firecracker Award for Fiction; $60,000 Amazon Canada First Novel Award In this extraordinary debut novel by the author of the Lambda Literary Award-winning story collection A Safe Girl to Love, Wendy Reimer is a thirty-year-old trans woman who comes across evidence that her late grandfather--a devout Mennonite farmer--might have been transgend WINNER, Lambda Literary Award; Firecracker Award for Fiction; $60,000 Amazon Canada First Novel Award In this extraordinary debut novel by the author of the Lambda Literary Award-winning story collection A Safe Girl to Love, Wendy Reimer is a thirty-year-old trans woman who comes across evidence that her late grandfather--a devout Mennonite farmer--might have been transgender himself. At first she dismisses this revelation, having other problems at hand, but as she and her friends struggle to cope with the challenges of their increasingly volatile lives--from alcoholism, to sex work, to suicide--Wendy is drawn to the lost pieces of her grandfather's life, becoming determined to unravel the mystery of his truth. Alternately warm-hearted and dark-spirited, desperate and mirthful, Little Fish explores the winter of discontent in the life of one transgender woman as her past and future become irrevocably entwined.


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WINNER, Lambda Literary Award; Firecracker Award for Fiction; $60,000 Amazon Canada First Novel Award In this extraordinary debut novel by the author of the Lambda Literary Award-winning story collection A Safe Girl to Love, Wendy Reimer is a thirty-year-old trans woman who comes across evidence that her late grandfather--a devout Mennonite farmer--might have been transgend WINNER, Lambda Literary Award; Firecracker Award for Fiction; $60,000 Amazon Canada First Novel Award In this extraordinary debut novel by the author of the Lambda Literary Award-winning story collection A Safe Girl to Love, Wendy Reimer is a thirty-year-old trans woman who comes across evidence that her late grandfather--a devout Mennonite farmer--might have been transgender himself. At first she dismisses this revelation, having other problems at hand, but as she and her friends struggle to cope with the challenges of their increasingly volatile lives--from alcoholism, to sex work, to suicide--Wendy is drawn to the lost pieces of her grandfather's life, becoming determined to unravel the mystery of his truth. Alternately warm-hearted and dark-spirited, desperate and mirthful, Little Fish explores the winter of discontent in the life of one transgender woman as her past and future become irrevocably entwined.

30 review for Little Fish

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jenny (Reading Envy)

    Wendy is a trans woman living in Winnipeg, in a circle of friends composed of other trans women. Even the author admitted this would be an incredible rarity but wanted a world where it would be possible, and that is the world of this novel. The novel starts with the death of Wendy's grandmother, which comes with a lot of judgment memories from her Mennonite relatives, and surprising rumors about her Opa (grandfather) that surface not long after. I liked her relationship to her father, which felt Wendy is a trans woman living in Winnipeg, in a circle of friends composed of other trans women. Even the author admitted this would be an incredible rarity but wanted a world where it would be possible, and that is the world of this novel. The novel starts with the death of Wendy's grandmother, which comes with a lot of judgment memories from her Mennonite relatives, and surprising rumors about her Opa (grandfather) that surface not long after. I liked her relationship to her father, which felt unique. I loved the natural dialogue of the novel, which makes up a good portion of the narrative. It was interesting to see how easily characters moved back into sex work, which felt very Canadian in its matter-of-factness. I feel like 50 pages could have been cut if I didn't have to read about every damn time Wendy took a sip of alcohol. I get that she has an alcohol problem but I as a reader grew weary. I'm sure Wendy is even more weary, but that was the one element keeping it from five stars for me.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Imogen

    The main way this book is similar to Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is that for the first half you're like "yeah this is pretty good but it's not blowing my mind" and then around the halfway point it takes off and becomes incredible. I don't remember if Order of the Phoenix did this too but Little Fish needed that first (admittedly good, just not as good as the second) half to serve as the foundation on which to build. Now that I am thinking about it, I guess JK Rowling had four previ The main way this book is similar to Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is that for the first half you're like "yeah this is pretty good but it's not blowing my mind" and then around the halfway point it takes off and becomes incredible. I don't remember if Order of the Phoenix did this too but Little Fish needed that first (admittedly good, just not as good as the second) half to serve as the foundation on which to build. Now that I am thinking about it, I guess JK Rowling had four previous books on which to build. Maybe the primary way that Little Fish is different from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is that Plett only needs half a book to get there - not four and a half books. Killer stuff and I loved it and this is the kind of book that makes you wish writing took less time so we could have more books from Casey Plett sooner.

  3. 5 out of 5

    CaseyTheCanadianLesbrarian

    What are you doing with your life if you haven't read this book?? A hard-hitting, beautiful, and thought-provoking novel. Amazing, complex, authentic characterization; Plett isn't afraid to make her characters messy. I was especially astounded at how she dealt with religion in the lives of some characters. She is also really talented at dialogue. I always marvel at how her characters sound like such real people. It's about a 30-year-old trans woman named Wendy living in Winnipeg, her group of tr What are you doing with your life if you haven't read this book?? A hard-hitting, beautiful, and thought-provoking novel. Amazing, complex, authentic characterization; Plett isn't afraid to make her characters messy. I was especially astounded at how she dealt with religion in the lives of some characters. She is also really talented at dialogue. I always marvel at how her characters sound like such real people. It's about a 30-year-old trans woman named Wendy living in Winnipeg, her group of trans women friends, and her Mennonite family. The crux of the plot is Wendy discovering her grandfather might have also been trans but it's just as much about other issues like alcoholism, sex work, friendship, suicide, and being poor. Highly recommended! Full review here on my blog.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Khashayar Mohammadi

    I picked up this book and decided to read a page or two to get a feel for it. 40 pages later I was still standing there reading, 250 pages later I had still not broken eye contact with this magnificent book, this absolute gem. The prose is sharp and witty without being too clever. The story flows so naturally and the narrative carries on with such simplicity and ease, letting the reader enjoy every single page. It was a book that made me question how I look at those around me, a book that made m I picked up this book and decided to read a page or two to get a feel for it. 40 pages later I was still standing there reading, 250 pages later I had still not broken eye contact with this magnificent book, this absolute gem. The prose is sharp and witty without being too clever. The story flows so naturally and the narrative carries on with such simplicity and ease, letting the reader enjoy every single page. It was a book that made me question how I look at those around me, a book that made me question the fundaments of human existence, how we perceive others in our culture. It was a book that made me laugh while giving me goosebumps. It was a hell of a ride and I feel I came out of it enlightened. It might be entertaining and clever, but the message is powerful, important, urgent. Its a book that every human being should read to learn more about society and what heteronormative culture imposes on marginalized people. Fantastic book. One of the best I read this year I strongly recommend it.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Morgan M. Page

    I had the chance to read this book prior to publication, and I was stunned at the work Casey Plett has produced. It is a truly moving and wonderful novel about family, in many sense of the word. If you don't read it, you'll regret it. I had the chance to read this book prior to publication, and I was stunned at the work Casey Plett has produced. It is a truly moving and wonderful novel about family, in many sense of the word. If you don't read it, you'll regret it.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Never

    Little Fish is hands down the book most intimately reflective of my transfeminine experience of any book I have ever read. This book knows me & knows my complicated interpersonal feelings & hopes & joys & disappointments. This is the book of the decade as far as I'm concerned. I have learned deep things about myself from this book. I have ugly cried once and normal cried twice from this book. I am not like the main character of Little Fish. But this character knows me. I am in her world. We have Little Fish is hands down the book most intimately reflective of my transfeminine experience of any book I have ever read. This book knows me & knows my complicated interpersonal feelings & hopes & joys & disappointments. This is the book of the decade as far as I'm concerned. I have learned deep things about myself from this book. I have ugly cried once and normal cried twice from this book. I am not like the main character of Little Fish. But this character knows me. I am in her world. We have probably hooked up. We have maybe traded escort stories. We could have run into each other at the free clinic and I could have bummed a cigarette from her just to have someone to talk to. This book got under my skin like books NEVER do to me. Reading it has been a heavy, personal, deeply emotional experience. I can't say I am enjoying reading it. This isn't enjoyment. This book knows me. It creeps in and takes me to hard places I forgot I had in me. I'm not a Mennonite. I've never been to Winnepeg, & I have no idea what it would be like to be trans there. This book has difficult experiences that I couldn't imagine having. I mean my difficult experiences are different ones. Most of them. But I know what it's like growing up in a religious community that rejects you. Mine was that of conservative Indiana megachurches. Idk. It's not worth playing compare and contrast bc that's meaningless. There is so much here for me though. The emotional core of the experiences. I am losing words for what this book did to me and why and what it is about it that is so special. But it's very, very deeply real. I want to read this book again but I feel like I'm going to have to wait for when I need it. I'll know that time when it comes. Already today I was having a conversation w a close friend and I took photos of five pages of this book to show her something that felt related to what we were talking about. This is the book I'm going to be paraphrasing and pulling off the shelf to show people during late night spill-your-guts, real-as-fuck conversations. I don't want to over hype it. But this is a very important book for me. I know I'm projecting a lot of my own shit onto it. Idk. I guess that's what art is for though. I'm going through some internal realization shit and this book brought me there. So yr gonna have to deal with me being really fucking extra about it because that's how I am. Also let it be known, I'm shipping Wendy & Reina

  7. 5 out of 5

    Z. F.

    minnow (n.): any of various small fish that are less than a designated size and are not game fish Menno (proper n.): first name of Menno Simons, founder of the Mennonite religious order; also slang used to refer to Mennonites themselves: "Oh, you grew up Menno too?" fish (adj.): [trans slang] 1. a derogatory term used by some to refer to non-trans women. Often considered highly offensive. 2. a compliment among some, too: "You look so fish." Little Fish (proper n.): a 2018 novel by Canadian author C minnow (n.): any of various small fish that are less than a designated size and are not game fish Menno (proper n.): first name of Menno Simons, founder of the Mennonite religious order; also slang used to refer to Mennonites themselves: "Oh, you grew up Menno too?" fish (adj.): [trans slang] 1. a derogatory term used by some to refer to non-trans women. Often considered highly offensive. 2. a compliment among some, too: "You look so fish." Little Fish (proper n.): a 2018 novel by Canadian author Casey Plett; concerns a young trans woman living in Winnipeg who begins to suspect that her late grandfather(?), a devout Mennonite, may in fact have been a trans woman too --- Casey Plett is one of those writers who does it all with such seeming effortlessness that it's easy to underestimate her skill. When I started Little Fish I was almost put off by its unshowy sentences and emphasis on dialogue over description; stupidly, I took understatement for oversimplicity. The narrative is understated, too: that enticing hook about Wendy’s possibly-trans grandparent is more of a subplot than the main storyline, an anchoring point for what is really a slice-of-life look at a couple of winter months in the shoes of a very specific, very real, very complicated person. And once I'd adjusted my expectations, I realized it's a much better book for all that. Anyone who’s spent time in young, queer spaces in the 2010s—be they IRL ones or online—will recognize the milieu and characters Plett evokes with precision. Anyone whose city of residence is the only urban outpost in an otherwise desolate state or province will recognize the gnawing semi-isolation, the sense of hanging on at the edge of the world, which permeates every scene of this book. And anyone who’s endured a tough winter, a barely-tolerable transition period, a habit or dependency they don’t remember developing, will recognize Wendy’s cyclical progress and one-hour-at-a-time survival, her days of despair made up for with moments of hope. The book can be repetitive, yes, not a drink or a smoke or a sex act uncatalogued, but in Plett’s skillfully unobtrusive hands it's never dull. The steady accumulation of everyday details—intercut now and then, as real lives are, by scenes of real drama and peril—allows us a special intimacy with Wendy which would have been sacrificed in a more impatient novel. In the month or so since finishing the book I've been surprised to find scenes and snippets popping into my head unannounced (and at times only half-recognized), as if they might be memories from my own life. I think that speaks not only to the accuracy of Plett's depictions, but also their immediacy, the sense that Wendy's world is not a "setting" at all but the one we—or some of us, at least—inhabit everyday. I’ve always admired writers who can effectively capture day-to-day life in the 21st century, with all its technological complications and ever-shifting social mores, without making modernity itself the message—and Plett does this as skillfully as anyone I've ever read. Cellphones and social media are ubiquitous in this book, but they’re not the point of it; as in real life, they're just a few more tools human beings can use to communicate (or not) with one another. And that's fitting, because this is a novel all about the ways in which people do and don't communicate: who they are, what they feel, what they need. I didn't realize just how much Little Fish was communicating to me, personally, until I'd put the book down and sat with it for awhile. I liked it a lot while reading it, but I like it even more in hindsight, and many moments still sting in my memory the way that only the best fiction does. This is a book which relishes complexity, which reckons with real pain and real joy on more or less equal terms, and acknowledges that most of life happens somewhere between the two. It's an undeniably "trans" book, intimate and specific and detailed and sincere, and it's a book about being a human more generally. What else is there to say? I'm so glad I read it. Here's a quote to close you out: "I can't tell you any of this. I know I can't. But I don't think my life is bad. It's funny—does all this stuff seem dark to you? Even though you're no stranger to hardship. I don't feel like my life is bad. I have friends I can trust; I have a good house; if I feel weird about a trick, I don't have to take it. Yet. I feel hopeless and powerless, but I'm genuinely grateful. That's a true thing. I don't know if you'd understand that. Maybe you would. What can I tell you about my life?"

  8. 5 out of 5

    K.J. Charles

    Trans woman Wendy deals, or doesn't, with a fair set of issues including alcoholism, bigotry and hostility, medical issues, sex work, grief, family rejection, a friend's suicide, and losing her job. There's also friendship and dogged refusal to give in, and parental love and the chance of new relationships, so it's not without hope, but this is a picture of a life that should not have to be so hard. It's a character piece, with no driving plot (the blurb's suggestion she goes on a quest to disco Trans woman Wendy deals, or doesn't, with a fair set of issues including alcoholism, bigotry and hostility, medical issues, sex work, grief, family rejection, a friend's suicide, and losing her job. There's also friendship and dogged refusal to give in, and parental love and the chance of new relationships, so it's not without hope, but this is a picture of a life that should not have to be so hard. It's a character piece, with no driving plot (the blurb's suggestion she goes on a quest to discover the truth about her grandfather is a figment of Marketing's imagination; Wendy herself forgets about this or doesn't bother for most of the book). As such it stands or falls on the character. The problem for me was that Wendy is an alcoholic, and any truths and hard thoughts quickly dissolve in booze. She is also very solipsistic in the way of addiction, so that the other characters appear and disappear but never come across very strongly through her haze, and since it's told entirely from Wendy's narrative point of view, this does leave us very much in her head. Obviously this is intentional on the author's part and well done, but the effect for me was that I couldn't really engage deeply with the character and there was nowhere else to go. YMMV on that.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Krista

    You always had to be on your guard. It didn't matter how often you passed, it could always be taken away. Always. She'd never be little, she'd never be a fish. It could always be taken away. I know a family who recently went on a trip to China, and as they were walking around Tiananmen Square, local families kept stopping them and motioning for their ten-year-old daughter to pose for pictures with their own children. My friends were amused by this at first, but as it happened over and over, a You always had to be on your guard. It didn't matter how often you passed, it could always be taken away. Always. She'd never be little, she'd never be a fish. It could always be taken away. I know a family who recently went on a trip to China, and as they were walking around Tiananmen Square, local families kept stopping them and motioning for their ten-year-old daughter to pose for pictures with their own children. My friends were amused by this at first, but as it happened over and over, and as their daughter tired of being petted and arranged just so by strangers, they grew impatient and started waving off requests. A locally-based American who had been watching said to them that it was the blue eyes more than anything – most of these people would have never seen blue eyes in real life before and they found the girl's looks to be shockingly strange; that “uncanny valley” effect that can surprise any of us when a person's looks don't fit into our known range of “normal”. Obviously, any Beijing residents who had spent time with blue-eyed people wouldn't have found this girl's looks shocking – familiarity is how we expand our known range of “normal” after all – and all of this is to say: Growing up, I don't remember seeing any trans people in real life, and what there were in pop culture (Klinger in M*A*S*H* [and, yes, I understand his character was pretending to be a transvestite, but he claimed to believe himself a woman in order to get discharged, so] or Divine in Hairspray [and, yes, I understand her to have been an intentionally over-the-top drag queen]) played up the uncanny valley effect – no one was trying to pass; these were men in dresses – and that did little to increase my own range. Today we see trans people more and more – even if they are usually the glamorous types like Lorraine Cox or Caitlin Jenner – and this familiarity absolutely expands the range of what “normal” looks like; which can't help but foster acceptance. But that's all just surface – what Casey Plett gives us in Little Fish is the interior life of a trans woman and this feels like the necessary next step in understanding; and this is why I read – in order to discover how it is that other people live and think and feel. I will admit that at first I wasn't terribly impressed with Plett's actual writing (it's a bit disjointed and doesn't flow quite right), but that's just the sentences (and just my own tastes) – in the end, Plett paints a real and empathetic picture of a transgendered woman's experience, and its value as a whole transcends the inelegance of its parts. As the book opens, we meet Wendy Reimer – a 30-year-old trans woman, eight years post-transition, living in Winnipeg – and as the blurb reveals, she learns at her Oma's funeral that there may have been closeted trans (or at least gay) relatives somewhere in her deeply religious Mennonite family tree. The blurb makes it sound like this is the big story arc but it's really not – while there are some nice stretches examining what it has meant to come out of the closet as a member of a religious community over time, this story is more about Wendy's own life than a trek through the past. And her own life is pretty hard, mostly due to the intolerance of others: a low-paying and insecure retail job, constantly at risk of verbal abuse and sexual assault from strangers, a tough dating scene and questionable housing; it all leads to Wendy being a quick-tempered and foul-mouthed blackout drunk (you'll like her anyways). With no mother and a loving but flaky father, Wendy has cobbled together a family of fellow trans women – knowing how lucky she is to live in a time and place where she can find such a community – and the love and support these women give each other is the spiritual heart of the book. The trans women are in various stages of pre- and post-op, and they run the gamut from straight to gay to pansexual; it all paints a big and varied picture of the trans experience, with the women mostly heartbroken over those girls who don't yet know they're girls, or who are too afraid to do something about what they know and want. As for the actual surgery, Wendy says: If other girls asked (as more and more would as more girls came out and the Klinic pipeline got long) she would say the one true thing she could: No she wasn't any happier, no she didn't feel any more like a real girl. But she was calmer now, like a small buzzing part of her brain had been turned off, and was now forever at rest. It's hard to say that any of these characters are actually happy – there's the alcohol abuse, constant misgendering (Lady, you're a dooood), sex work, and risk of suicide – but at least they're bravely living their truth, right? I found it interesting when Plett has an elderly Mennonite put in her two cents, pointing out that it's actually harder to deny yourself what you want for the glory of God: You may have thought you needed to be a woman or die. Have you any idea what you can manage? You think you're weak. And because you think you're weak, you can't actually do anything. So you choose the easy, selfish path. Nothing about Little Fish makes it look like Wendy took the easy path (and as for “selfish”, that's just a harsh word for taking care of oneself), but Plett is generous to the religious viewpoint and it adds another dimension to Wendy's experience. I liked the Winnipeg setting, I liked the constant sense of danger (it seemed that I more concerned for Wendy's welfare than she was herself), and I liked the shoutouts to Miriam Toews and Heather O'Neill. On the other hand, even if it adds to the truth of the experience, I don't need this much explicit sex in a novel, and as I said earlier, this writing doesn't feel terribly literary at the sentence level. But overall, Little Fish feels important – the needed next step in recognising transgendered people as simply people; I consider the four stars a rounding up in light of this.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Gina

    2 stars Little Fish may be one of the most dismal, depressing, what the hell is going on books that I have ever read. I wanted (desperately so) to like this book about trans women, written by a trans woman, Casey Plett.  Plett writes quite nice prose -- when she is writing prose, rather than pages and pages of mundane conversation. This is very much a slice of life book, and it could been more interesting had an editor insisted that Plett cut some pages of dialogue, passages of Wendy drinking, and 2 stars Little Fish may be one of the most dismal, depressing, what the hell is going on books that I have ever read. I wanted (desperately so) to like this book about trans women, written by a trans woman, Casey Plett.  Plett writes quite nice prose -- when she is writing prose, rather than pages and pages of mundane conversation. This is very much a slice of life book, and it could been more interesting had an editor insisted that Plett cut some pages of dialogue, passages of Wendy drinking, and paragraphs of Wendy observing the weather or the road conditions. Plett devotes so many pages to dialogue, which became tedious to slog through. I would have enjoyed less dialogue and more plot and character development.  We are dropped into the lives of these four women -- without the luxury of a priori knowledge -- but I never connected to them. The characters are self-destructive, and I understand that this is a story about the difficulty of being a trans woman, but the story dragged (too much dialogue!). Oh...and that back cover hook about Wendy's Oja? It is such a small part of the book, and it did not feel resolved. 

  11. 5 out of 5

    Yuna

    Hard to describe how I feel about this one. I'm reminded of why I don't tend to like mainstream/general fiction, because the story tends to feel aimless and meandering. There didn't seem to be much plot, more just following the main character around. But, I ended up liking the characters and getting invested in them. I liked Wendy's roommates and seeing their interactions and the upside to a meandering plot was that the characters had a sense of "realness" to them because I spent so much time wa Hard to describe how I feel about this one. I'm reminded of why I don't tend to like mainstream/general fiction, because the story tends to feel aimless and meandering. There didn't seem to be much plot, more just following the main character around. But, I ended up liking the characters and getting invested in them. I liked Wendy's roommates and seeing their interactions and the upside to a meandering plot was that the characters had a sense of "realness" to them because I spent so much time wandering around with them as a reader. The book is rather unflinching in looking at suicide and sexual assault, which may not be for everyone. Also a lot of morbid humor about being trans and how bleak the future can be sometimes. I liked it, and thought it added another layer of depth to the book and the characters, but again, might be too on the nose for some. Personally, I find reading about alcoholism tedious, but it did inform on Wendy's character. Not sure how I feel about it not really being addressed in the book.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    I'm not sure what to make of this book. The premise in the blurb - Wendy finding out her grandfather might've been trans - sounds interesting, but the book did very little with that storyline. Most of the book was a lot of getting drunk and having sex. I found it very hard to read Wendy's reactions to things, e.g., she'd claim someone seemed nice and fun and I didn't understand why it felt that way to her. Waking up with a hangover in someone's bed not remembering if you had sex or not sounds te I'm not sure what to make of this book. The premise in the blurb - Wendy finding out her grandfather might've been trans - sounds interesting, but the book did very little with that storyline. Most of the book was a lot of getting drunk and having sex. I found it very hard to read Wendy's reactions to things, e.g., she'd claim someone seemed nice and fun and I didn't understand why it felt that way to her. Waking up with a hangover in someone's bed not remembering if you had sex or not sounds terrible to me! Most of her decisions didn't make sense to me. Not that they weren't realistic, they were just so far from the choices I'd make that I often ended up annoyed with her when the other characters in the book were sympathetic. I mean, (view spoiler)[ she's working in a store and finds out she is going to lose her job but she has several months' notice. Why is the obvious thing to do to work as a prostitute rather than looking for another job in a store? (hide spoiler)] I would've been sympathetic if she was desperate, but it just seemed like a really bad decision. I think the book has value for the ways it shows Wendy's experience being a trans woman and the relationships she has with other trans women, but there was no trajectory of her life either going downhill or of her growing up, it was just a cycle of drinks and hangovers.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Skye Kilaen

    I'm not fantastic at talking about literary fiction, but I thought this was amazing. There’s a reason this ownvoices novel about a transgender woman has won multiple literary awards. Casey Plett is a gifted author and I’m really looking forward to her next book. Also, I can only speak for myself as a cis person, but I really believe for cis folks this is *so* worth sitting down with and letting yourself feel it and reflect on it. In addition to just enjoying the heck out of a good novel - I promi I'm not fantastic at talking about literary fiction, but I thought this was amazing. There’s a reason this ownvoices novel about a transgender woman has won multiple literary awards. Casey Plett is a gifted author and I’m really looking forward to her next book. Also, I can only speak for myself as a cis person, but I really believe for cis folks this is *so* worth sitting down with and letting yourself feel it and reflect on it. In addition to just enjoying the heck out of a good novel - I promise I'm not saying the important thing about this book is its education potential for cis folks!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Megan

    Oh, I just loved this. Read in two days. A slice-of-life style narrative -- two months (or so?) in the life of Wendy, a twentysomething trans girl with Mennonite heritage and a single father, part of a closeknit community of trans women in Winnipeg. A lot happens that is significant but the pleasure is in the time spent with this character and this author, who emphasizes community and love on every page.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Bailey Olfert

    This book is set in my city, and like Wendy, I have Mennonite roots. Those were interesting aspects to the book. I've heard others rave about the friendships portrayed but I read those relationships as largely unhealthy ones. Mostly I was irritated that the book is sold as Wendy learning a secret about her Menno grandfather - that was a tiny subplot while the bulk of the book had very little story at all. There's lots of drinking, and lots of sex. Wendy's responses often seemed wildly erratic an This book is set in my city, and like Wendy, I have Mennonite roots. Those were interesting aspects to the book. I've heard others rave about the friendships portrayed but I read those relationships as largely unhealthy ones. Mostly I was irritated that the book is sold as Wendy learning a secret about her Menno grandfather - that was a tiny subplot while the bulk of the book had very little story at all. There's lots of drinking, and lots of sex. Wendy's responses often seemed wildly erratic and contradictory.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Leah Horlick

    I almost can't believe this book is real, it's so perfect. It's like looking into a horribly, gorgeously accurate snowglobe of the prairie. Got it from the library, cried all over it, need to go buy my own copy now because I just need to know it's on my shelf and exists in the world. I almost can't believe this book is real, it's so perfect. It's like looking into a horribly, gorgeously accurate snowglobe of the prairie. Got it from the library, cried all over it, need to go buy my own copy now because I just need to know it's on my shelf and exists in the world.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Mel (Epic Reading)

    Picked-up at the cutest little, beautifully curated bookstore in Vancouver called Paper Hound (in gastown). Super stoked to find such a unique Canadian novel!

  18. 5 out of 5

    George K. Ilsley

    Having read so many addiction memoirs, I can see why the tone of this novel polarized many readers. Wendy presents as an alcoholic from the very first scene, yet only on page 186 does she question it out loud, to her father, who shoots down the notion. The biggest implication here for the reader is how much can we rely on Wendy’s insights? When she looks at her grandfather through the filters of her own view, can we trust her? This is not a narrative for anyone seeking resolution or redemption. P Having read so many addiction memoirs, I can see why the tone of this novel polarized many readers. Wendy presents as an alcoholic from the very first scene, yet only on page 186 does she question it out loud, to her father, who shoots down the notion. The biggest implication here for the reader is how much can we rely on Wendy’s insights? When she looks at her grandfather through the filters of her own view, can we trust her? This is not a narrative for anyone seeking resolution or redemption. Plett has been very brave to write such a messy character. If I wrote this review immediately upon finishing I would have rated the book lower. But what happened was this — Wendy stuck with me. I kept thinking about her. I really felt like I had spent time with a real person— someone messy and flawed, someone frustrating and self-destructive, someone whose company is a challenge and who is full of potential but you just know they are not going to last that long. Wendy is a true anti-hero, and Plett is brave enough not to bother prettying it up for sensitive readers who prefer an ideal fictional world.

  19. 4 out of 5

    A

    There is really such a marked difference in how men and women write about sex, with the difference mainly being that women know women are people. Anyway, this is a stellar book and Wendy is such a good, good, well-written character. I hope she gets with Aileen in the end.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Erik

    It's not a fair metric to judge a book by, but being trans I tend to look for my experiences in trans narratives and am disappointed when they're not there. Wendy, this book's protagonist, along with her group of friends, are about as far from my life as they could possibly be. These are not people I would want to be around, they radiate that kind of insular trans energy where they immediately divide people as trans and not trans. Her cis roommates are always called cis roommates, they are not d It's not a fair metric to judge a book by, but being trans I tend to look for my experiences in trans narratives and am disappointed when they're not there. Wendy, this book's protagonist, along with her group of friends, are about as far from my life as they could possibly be. These are not people I would want to be around, they radiate that kind of insular trans energy where they immediately divide people as trans and not trans. Her cis roommates are always called cis roommates, they are not deemed interesting enough to talk to or be given names, or to be told when someone they knew has died. They are just those cis people who will never understand. And that attitude makes sense when you get to the little nugget of mystery pulling itself through this thing: Wendy learns that her grandfather may have been queer. Though she is given barely any information and later told several times that he was into men, she latches onto the idea that he was trans too. Because Wendy never got a chance to come out to him and wants him to have been ok with it. Because she wants to feel closer to him. Because she's still, even 8 years after starting to transition, she's still locked into that idea that trans people and cis people are just too different to ever really understand or care about each other. While the book brought up many interesting situations and perspectives, it was just not fun to watch this alcoholic, self-destructive, lost woman stumble through life between black outs in the cold. Her acceptance and thankfulness for her life at the book's end, her figuring that struggling to better herself will never make her happier so she should just accept that she'll probably die young and stay doing sex work even though she hates it and never stop drinking is just the rotten cherry on this miserable sundae. Still, the writing style was nice though the little scrolls that broke up some paragraphs seemed in bizarre places at times, why would you place a hard break in the middle of a scene and then continue it? There were nice meditations of grief, religion, acceptance and gender, and I understand that it may be liberating for others to read this kind of narrative, but it was not at all for me.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Melinda Worfolk

    3.5 stars. The protagonist of this novel embodies a voice not often heard in mainstream fiction: a 30 year old trans woman struggling to make a life for herself in a world full of transphobia that ranges from misgendering, to street harassment, to sexual assault. The book blurb makes it sound like the plot focuses around a revelation that Wendy's devout Mennonite grandfather may have been trans also, but it's really a fairly minor part of the novel. The book mainly deals with Wendy's difficult l 3.5 stars. The protagonist of this novel embodies a voice not often heard in mainstream fiction: a 30 year old trans woman struggling to make a life for herself in a world full of transphobia that ranges from misgendering, to street harassment, to sexual assault. The book blurb makes it sound like the plot focuses around a revelation that Wendy's devout Mennonite grandfather may have been trans also, but it's really a fairly minor part of the novel. The book mainly deals with Wendy's difficult life, not only with the way she is treated by transphobic people but also her precarious employment and housing situations and her alcoholism. She does have a good friend group, but they, too, are all struggling in one way or another. Despite that, they are there for each other, and I liked their supportive friendships. The main difficulty I had with the book was the writing: it's full of short, choppy, disjointed sentences, which isn't a style I connect with. Even so, I appreciated the book because it gave me an opportunity to spend some time with a trans character who is self aware, smart, and complex.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jeanne Thornton

    "What kind of world does the core of your brain expect that you, you personally, get to live in? . . . Wendy did still believe she would have love." <3 "What kind of world does the core of your brain expect that you, you personally, get to live in? . . . Wendy did still believe she would have love." <3

  23. 4 out of 5

    Max

    I'm not sure how to review this book or, really, even how to articulate my feelings on it. I loved it, I can say that much, and...is it weird to say you feel "seen" after reading a book? Probably, but I did. My background doesn't intersect with the protagonist's all that much - I'm trans, but not a trans woman; I'm a white person from the prairies, but not Manitoba, and my family isn't Mennonite - but it intersects enough that the story pulled me in, and when the second half of the novel explode I'm not sure how to review this book or, really, even how to articulate my feelings on it. I loved it, I can say that much, and...is it weird to say you feel "seen" after reading a book? Probably, but I did. My background doesn't intersect with the protagonist's all that much - I'm trans, but not a trans woman; I'm a white person from the prairies, but not Manitoba, and my family isn't Mennonite - but it intersects enough that the story pulled me in, and when the second half of the novel exploded with ugly emotions (and actions and thoughts, but it was the emotions that hit me again and again) I had to stop repeatedly to take a breath. This isn't a light read. It deals a lot with sexual assault and suicide and addiction and the sort of undefined trauma that comes from living your life in a body that marks you as separate. There's a lot of transmisogyny depicted in this, unsurprisingly, and it comes in a lot of different forms. I'm very glad I read it, though, because one of the driving forces of the story is a specific kind of misery, one that tends to be unspeakable in part because there are no good words for it, and it's the kind of misery that I think will be immediately recognizable to anyone who's experienced it. One of the blurbs on the back cover of my copy, from Zoey Leigh Peterson, speaks to this: "There is a dark place most novels don't touch. If you've ever been there, maybe you know how exhilarating it can be to read a book like this." (Also, it has a hopeful-leaning-happy ending. So don't let that last paragraph scare you off TOO much.)

  24. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    Excellent. Wendy, a 30 yo trans woman in Winnipeg, discovers that her late Mennonite grandfather may have been transgender like her. Wendy seeks answers, while just trying to get by with everyday life. The story is quite sad at times. And there is some repetition: Wendy drinks, Wendy has sexual encounters, Wendy has conversations with family, both chosen and blood. Rinse, repeat. But rather than finding this repetition fatiguing, I found it realistic. Wendy is a fully fleshed character, complex a Excellent. Wendy, a 30 yo trans woman in Winnipeg, discovers that her late Mennonite grandfather may have been transgender like her. Wendy seeks answers, while just trying to get by with everyday life. The story is quite sad at times. And there is some repetition: Wendy drinks, Wendy has sexual encounters, Wendy has conversations with family, both chosen and blood. Rinse, repeat. But rather than finding this repetition fatiguing, I found it realistic. Wendy is a fully fleshed character, complex and sympathetic. A very moving read. Highly recommend.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Nikki

    I feel like I know these people and I'll miss them so much. This novel understands what it means to have a community, even if that community is just you and your three best friends. It understands that not only is that more than enough - it's everything. The girl gang at the heart of the book - the four trans girls who love and support each other - is one of the most beautiful portraits of friendship I've ever seen. I feel like I know these people and I'll miss them so much. This novel understands what it means to have a community, even if that community is just you and your three best friends. It understands that not only is that more than enough - it's everything. The girl gang at the heart of the book - the four trans girls who love and support each other - is one of the most beautiful portraits of friendship I've ever seen.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Denise Cameron

    This novel is both incredible and a little heartbreaking.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Haider

    Wendy is a trans woman living in Winnipeg, Canada. She has her circle of LGBTQ+ friends many of whom are dealing with the messiness with life as trans people. Amongst their group, they experience substance abuse, suicide and sex-work. Wendy discovers evidence that her grandfather may also have been transgender. Wendy pokes into her family's past to see if she can find out the truth about her grandfather, all while dealing with the realities of her own life as a trans woman. This was a powerful r Wendy is a trans woman living in Winnipeg, Canada. She has her circle of LGBTQ+ friends many of whom are dealing with the messiness with life as trans people. Amongst their group, they experience substance abuse, suicide and sex-work. Wendy discovers evidence that her grandfather may also have been transgender. Wendy pokes into her family's past to see if she can find out the truth about her grandfather, all while dealing with the realities of her own life as a trans woman. This was a powerful read. It really opened a window allowing the reader to peer into the life of a trans woman. The book was dark at times but at others very endearing. Wendy as a character is a complex human with her fair share of problems but the desire to make the best of her life and discover who she really is. The book is filled with conversations between Wendy and her circle. The dialogue is richly developed and really helps drive the novel. Thank you to the publisher for the audiobook!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Kevin

    Prediction: Little Fish will be in my top five 2018 Canadian fiction reads at year-end. I thought this book was just exquisitely written. It is simultaneously honest and sardonic, which turns out is a lovely combination. Or perhaps author Casey Plett just knows how to do it well. I sometimes feel guilty reading books in a day because I know that authors toil over books for what seems like eons... but I couldn't help but rumble my way through this period in Wendy's life in a couple sittings. The Prediction: Little Fish will be in my top five 2018 Canadian fiction reads at year-end. I thought this book was just exquisitely written. It is simultaneously honest and sardonic, which turns out is a lovely combination. Or perhaps author Casey Plett just knows how to do it well. I sometimes feel guilty reading books in a day because I know that authors toil over books for what seems like eons... but I couldn't help but rumble my way through this period in Wendy's life in a couple sittings. The dialogue in this book is spot on (I hope it gets adapted for the screen) and Plett writes each supporting character in such a different voice. The story is simple in structure but complex in nature and Plett leads the reader through it with such ease. She's clearly not afraid of giving the reader whack (or a few whacks) on the side of the head throughout, but that's what makes this super book from Arsenal Pulp Press such a stellar read. I hope the author and publisher receive recognition for this book and I look forward to looking back on it as a hallmark of Canadian LGBTQ literature.

  29. 5 out of 5

    b

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. In turns I was put off by the dialogue (kind of felt like a Whedonesque not-quite-wit) but also know that in my own queer community lots of folks do speak these ways and without affectation, so, I could move past that pretty easy. I guess my big gripe is the novel seems to opt out of some really interesting things to think about (namely, alcoholism, and suicide), and while it picks up the blackout alcoholism (a reveal that Wendy hurts herself and asks to be hit and is mean to others) at the end, In turns I was put off by the dialogue (kind of felt like a Whedonesque not-quite-wit) but also know that in my own queer community lots of folks do speak these ways and without affectation, so, I could move past that pretty easy. I guess my big gripe is the novel seems to opt out of some really interesting things to think about (namely, alcoholism, and suicide), and while it picks up the blackout alcoholism (a reveal that Wendy hurts herself and asks to be hit and is mean to others) at the end, it doesn’t really address it in a meaningful way; it feels more like Plett pulling back the curtain to show us the depths of Wendy’s despair, and, well, that seems like more interesting ‘plot’ than “our store is shutting down,” or “we have to find a new apartment.” These are all really fussy nitpicky problems, though. This is the first novel I’ve read in a long time that made sense as a novel, not like some overlong boring short fiction. The prose is pretty smooth, though never flashy, and things move along at a pretty brisk clip. Really immersive, doesn’t fall victim to “trans lives are all tragedy” pity-porn tropes (though tragedy is in here, just handled much more adroitly than writing-for-cis-back-pats work is), and miserable and claustrophobic (winter: winnipeg). Really happy I read this.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Queen

    Although the story is complex and has a lot of different characters that are just as complex, I didn’t find the story as compelling as I thought. Read it to understand more of the trans community but not necessarily for the plot that seemed to be dragging on.

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