Atlantic Book Awards 2020: Alistair MacLeod Prize for Short Fiction

The Alistair MacLeod Prize for Short Fiction celebrates excellent short story collections by writers who are either from the Atlantic Provinces, or live here now. This prize is named for beloved short story writer Alistair MacLeod.

Here are the 2020 nominees…


A Dark House and Other Stories by Ian Colford, Vagrant Press – a Nimbus Imprint

I was happy to see this book on the shortlist. I briefly discussed it here a couple of weeks ago, along with a few other short story collections. I said things like “The first story… is absolutely devastating” and “There is not a dud in this book” and ” Highly recommended“.

To read more, visit my review!

Ian Colford’s website

Other reviews of A Dark House and Other Stories


Dig by Terry Doyle, Breakwater Books

Another book I was pleased to see on the list – that I have also previously written about – where I said, “The stories in Dig are short, contemporary snapshots of ordinary people’s lives. And what a wide and interesting variety of lives people have…”

To read more, visit my review!

Dig is also a finalist for the Margaret and John Savage First Book Award for Fiction, and the Danuta Gleed Literary Award.

Other reviews of Dig can be found here.


Nosy White Woman by Martha Wilson, Biblioasis

I’m happy to be able to introduce a new book to you in this post – another collection of contemporary snapshots of every day life, with a focus on families.

I like it when short stories start off strong, and there are some good first lines here:

When I was fifteen my father was struck by the notion that it must be mystifyingly difficult, or impossible, to create a Chinese dictionary.

Gary Lehtinen was touched by another person for the last time at the grocery store, four days before he died.

One bright Fall afternoon I was on Pinterest browsing pictures of window boxes, while also trying to figure out why anyone would want to be Speaker of the House.

I was procrastinating at work, trying to figure out what’s happening in Togo, when Maura entered the lunch room with the look she gets when she’s had another dream that I died.

In one of my favourite stories, The Golden Bra, there are three sisters, one of whom cares for their mother and has an alcohol problem that she denies. When their mother dies, and the sisters want to get the estate in order, and Hayley says “I will not let you down on this”, the narrator wants to believe that Hayley still values their relationship more than her alcohol needs.

Wanting to believe my older sister still loved me now made me a sucker and a fool, vaguely pathetic and puppy-like, unable to learn from experience. I felt like a high school girl reluctant to let go of her first boyfriend. An objective observer would say, “Why do you keep chasing this relationship?” Because it was so much harder than I ever imagined to quit hoping.

Another favourite, Midway, is about a big family who all work at the family business – fruitcake. (“Fruitcake is not well understood.”) Our narrator sometimes finds it hard to have family involved in every part of her life.

Your family was your go-to source of employment, socializing, religious insight, houseplant cuttings, cooking and driving instruction, home down-payment loans, romantic advice, and general wisdom and personal feedback on how you were faring with your life goals.

Other stories in the collection include: a teen obsessed with architecture, SPCA volunteers, a man with depression who thought his love for his girlfriend had cured him, a woman who is the only one in her Canadian family who follows U.S. politics, a grieving woman who eats a can of frosting most nights for dinner, a couple who believe in the possibility of the Loch Ness monster, an older man who unknowingly goes through all his “lasts”, and a new minister who does away with the youth group’s Halloween fundraiser.

Other reviews and praise for Nosy White Woman can be found here.



The Alistair MacLeod Prize for Short Fiction is part of the Atlantic Book Awards.

24 thoughts on “Atlantic Book Awards 2020: Alistair MacLeod Prize for Short Fiction

    • Naomi says:

      She was very good at sucking me in to her stories! And she was a fun addition to the list, for me, because this was the first I’d heard of her – a new writer to watch!

    • Naomi says:

      I have a favourite, but am woefully bad at predicting winners.

      I have a few more posts coming up along the same lines, if I can get my act together! (I’ve done well with the fiction reading this year!)

      • Laila@BigReadingLife says:

        So I had a low blood sugar episode last year, and my friend with diabetes told me to keep a can of frosting in the pantry in case it ever happens again because it’s such a quick delivery system of sugar!

      • Naomi says:

        Interesting! My brother is diabetic and he drinks juice for quick delivery. There are probably so many options!

    • buriedinprint says:

      As a teenager, my best friend and I used to eat frosting spread on Saltines. The ratio of frosting to cracker would have made it remarkably similar to eating straight from the packet, but this way it seemed like a meal, and I suppose we just never thought of skipping the crackers really. 🙂

      • Rebecca Foster says:

        I have to mention the weirdest snack I’ve come across in fiction: raw, peeled potatoes cut into quarters and spread with margarine and salt (from Who Will Run the Frog Hospital? by Lorrie Moore).

      • buriedinprint says:

        LOL That’s something else I ate as a kid (but not WITH the frosting sandwiches!) but I was always told not to have more than a piece (now I see there are two sides to the raw potato argument, so maybe I should resume). Did YOU ever try after reading the story? 🙂

  1. wadholloway says:

    I really wanted to know how all those Nosy White Woman first lines worked out (though I know why politicians want to be speaker – they’re not good enough to be ministers but they get the big pay).

  2. annelogan17 says:

    I LOVE the sounds of Nosy White Woman! Does anyone call her “karen” by any chance? LOL

    And eating a can of frosting every night for dinner? I would most definitely do stuff like that if I didn’t have to feed the rest of my family. Biblioasis is such a great publisher, I’m reading The Dishwasher from them right now…very gritty but fascinating.

    • Naomi says:

      I LOVED The Dishwasher!

      Oh, there are so many quick and easy things I would eat for supper if I didn’t have to feed everyone else. Some day… 🙂

      No Karens mentioned, if I recall correctly. haha!

  3. buriedinprint says:

    That fruitcake line! What fun. That one is on my TBR list too. And your previous post already added Dig to it. I’ve read the Colford, which I’ve written up for the next quarterly post of stories (coming for solstice). It’s nice that you have actually read all the nominees, although I can see where you would keep your favourite close to the chest.

    • Naomi says:

      My lips are sealed!

      I do believe that fruitcake is undervalued. I love the combination of fruit and nuts and cake! I’ve never made it though. Maybe I should… Or I’ll get my daughter to make it for me! 🙂

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