– Joe Ponepinto, Orca Literary Journal
– Lindy Pratch, Lindy Reads and Reviews
– Carly Rigby, @carlyisreading
— Omar Mouallem, award-winning author, journalist, filmmaker
– HelenJane Shawyer, University English Instructor
– Liz Pomeroy, Irish-Canadian Lead Singer of 0Stella
– Erin Giese, Indigenous Social Worker
– Heidi Klaassen, Designer (Hekkal & Hyde)
The novel is a series of character-driven interconnected stories that will leave you with the familiar feeling of serendipity that comes with the strange and sometimes turbulent connections we experience in our own lives. With snapshots of the cultural realities of Northern Alberta from the past three decades, it’s a Canadian must-read. I devoured it like a Tim Horton’s maple-glazed."
Set in urban and rural reaches of Alberta, Katie Bickell’s debut novel is told in a series of stories that span the years from 1990 to 2016, through cycles of boom and bust in the oil fields, government budget cuts and workers rights policies, the rising opioid crisis, and the intersecting lives of people whose communities sometimes stretch farther than they know.
We meet a teenage runaway who goes into labor at the West Edmonton Mall, a doctor managing hospital overflow in a time of healthcare cutbacks, a broke dad making extra pay through a phone sex line, a young musician who dreams of fame beyond the reserve, and a dedicated hockey mom grappling with sense of self when she’s no longer needed―or welcome―at the rink.
Always Brave, Sometimes Kind captures a network of friends, caregivers, in-laws, and near misses, with each character’s life coming into greater focus as we learn more about the people around them. Tracing alliances and betrayals from different perspectives over decades, Bickell writes an ode to home and community that is both warm and gritty, well-defined and utterly complicated.
Praise for Always Brave, Sometimes Kind:
“Always Brave, Sometimes Kind is forever beautiful. Bickell’s debut is a loving portrait of the people that you think you know, but don’t really, and who feel even more familiar thanks to her accurate map of one city’s past, politics, and pulse.” — Omar Mouallem, award-winning author, journalist, filmmaker
“This is a very satisfying read. When I finished the book, I wanted to reread it immediately. Bickell shows the interconnectedness of our actions and our lives in such a way that this reader desperately wants to chart a family and friends tree. On the second read (yes, I read it twice), I was more aware of the connections and this enabled a different reading experience than the first time. Always clever, Sometimes puzzling. I recommend reading carefully to enjoy the subtlety of some connections. Time for a third reading.” — HelenJane Shawyer, Former English Professor
“Like a Northern Albertan wind in February, this courageous piece of writing exposes the harsh truths of life in modern Canada. Humorous, tender, and sensitive, I was completely absorbed within the first few pages. absolutely devoured this book. I burst out laughing a couple of times at how profoundly accurate her depictions of Albertan life are. A really beautiful study of the intricate connections between us all.” — Liz Pomeroy, Irish-Canadian Singer-Songwriter and Lead Vocals of 0Stella
“The fact that the novel jumps back and forth between so many characters and manages to keep you engaged, as well as ensuring that you do not feel like you are missing anything, is surely the mark of a masterful writer. Bickell tells the story of a gaggle of characters and ties it all off nicely at the end of the book. Strongly recommended.” — Sebastian B., GoodReads Review
“There are no quibbles to be had with the writing…. Bickell treats all her characters, regardless of their imperfections, with respect, and shows us ways—big, small, barely perceptible—that humans are capable of being brave and kind. And also, not so much.” — Barb Howard, Alberta View Magazine
“A jigsaw puzzle of a novel that appeals to my social justice warrior self… Righting historic wrongs is a theme that left me with a hopeful feeling after I finished reading Always Brave, Sometimes Kind.” — Lindy Pratch, Shaw Giller Reading Series
“Katie Bickell’s debut novel, Always Brave, Sometimes Kind, is a series of stories reminiscent of a jigsaw puzzle, with pieces that interlock and build into an extraordinary, complex picture of Alberta through two decades…. Richly textured and absorbing” — Margaret Goldik, Prairie Books Now
“Bickell’s ability to weave the original, stand-alone short stories into a novel speaks to her evolution as a writer. She has taken glimpses into an alternate reality and built them into a vivid and compelling world that few writers have, until now, understood.” — Joe Ponepinto, Orca Literary Journal
“You know when you see a beautiful painting filled with colour, light and shadow, every intricacy a carefully considered piece of the whole picture? I love books with the same rich tones and purposeful choices, like Always Brave, Sometimes Kind, by Katie Bickell.
The novel is a series of character-driven interconnected stories that will leave you with the familiar feeling of serendipity that comes with the strange and sometimes turbulent connections we experience in our own lives. With snapshots of the cultural realities of Northern Alberta from the past three decades, it’s a Canadian must-read. I devoured it like a Tim Horton’s maple-glazed.” — Heidi Klaassen, Designer (Hekkal & Hyde)
“Always Brave, Sometimes Kind is a book that allows people to go on a journey. Some of that journey is hard and some of it is beautiful. There are so many hidden connections and revelations that surprise the reader, creating captivating layers of meaning. This is an honest, much-needed look at life in Alberta and Canada. A must-read and a must-re-read. I loved the twists and turns and the heart-tugging plot of it all.” — Erin Giese, Indigenous Social Worker
Would you like a signed bookplate to accompany your purchase of Always Brave, Sometimes Kind? Please fill the form below. Stickers will be distributed in November 2020.