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Quality of life discussions could be sparked by latest Red Deer Reads book selection

The goal is to build community connections through a shared reading experience: librarian
Briana Ehnes, manager for events and innovation at the Red Deer Public Library, holds copies of the latest Red Deer Reads selection, ‘A Funny Kind of Paradise,’ by Jo Owens. (Contributed photo)

Red Deerians have spoken: The title for the next Red Deer Reads event is about a freedom-loving septuagenarian who must adjust when life throws her a cruel curve ball.

A Funny Kind of Paradise, by Jo Owens, was the clear winner out of three possible Canadian novels that were put to a public vote in May for the community reading event held by the Red Deer Public Library. Also in the running were Astra by Cedar Bowers and The Theory of Crows, by David A. Robertson.

Briana Ehnes, the library’s events and innovation manager, said people seemed overwhelmingly behind Owens’ story of Francesca. The independent, 70-year-old protagonist is gearing up for retirement, having single-handedly raised her children and run a business. But when a massive stroke leaves her voiceless, partially paralyzed and reliant on staff at an extended care home, Francesca must learn to cope with a life of dependence.

“From what I’ve heard, I think people thought it was a unique perspective that you don’t often hear about — somebody living in an extended care home,” said Ehnes. She feels Owens has an authoritative voice on the subject since she worked in personal care homes.

Whether Red Deerians are looking after aging relatives, or realizing that they are approaching that stage of life themselves, “they are finding the story is really relatable,” she added. “It’s a book with a lot of humanity in it.”

The library is stocking up multiple copies of A Funny Kind of Paradise and these will be loaned out to readers over the summer.

On Oct. 3, Owens, a Victoria, B.C. resident, will come to Red Deer to wrap up the Red Deer Reads event with a book talk, a question and answer session and some book signings.

Meanwhile, readers are welcome to weigh in about the novel on the library’s website or social media with the hashtag reddeerreads. Ehnes hopes some discussions will be sparked about the book’s themes, including what is quality of life.

This is the sixth Red Deer Reads event since the community book club was started in 2015, eventually becoming an every-two-year event in order to have a broader selection of books to choose from.

The library takes reader suggestions for book titles. Staff then trims these to three finalists, based on criteria that includes the author must be Canadian and still living, and the book’s topic/story must have some heft to it — enough substance to spark a dialogue, said Ehnes.

The goal is always to create connections, building community through a shared reading experience, said Ehnes.

Lana Michelin

About the Author: Lana Michelin

Lana Michelin has been a reporter for the Red Deer Advocate since moving to the city in 1991.
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