Welcome to the second edition of Tightrope Teaser Tuesday, where we give our readers the briefest of glimpses – teases, if you will – into our new, backlist, and forthcoming books. This week, take a look at Heather J. Wood’s Fortune Cookie, a novel published in spring 2009.
Fortune Cookie is a diary-style novella set in Montreal during the turbulent year of 1989. The book follows Robin through her growing disenchantment with the aimless life of a twenty-something who hasn’t yet found herself in a world that is changing as fast as she is. This subversively feminist work, aimed at young women, is told in first-person vignettes – written in the informal and often humourous voice of 24-year-old Robin. Robin’s vignettes are at times intercut with news headlines, highlighting the political and social events of the year – including Tiananmen Square, the fall of the Berlin Wall and Montreal Massacre.
Montreal-born Heather J. Wood is a freelance copywriter and creative prose writer. Her work has appeared in Kiss Machine, Artistry of Life, and Litbits, as well as in two Tightrope Books anthologies: In the Dark: Stories from the Supernatural, and IV Lounge Nights. Heather’s chapbook, Barbies, Breasts and Bathing Suits, was published by Press On! in 2007. She lives in Toronto with her husband Kurt and two cats.
Enjoy this excerpt from Heather J. Wood’s Fortune Cookie.
Friday, June 9, 1989
Sunday night’s television coverage of the tanks and soldiers with machine guns storming into Tiananmen Square almost made me cry. The students’ crushed hopes and expectations were as sad as the deaths and injuries. I needed to do something about it, which was why I went to the McGill Library to read about human rights.
Reagan was busy all week, volunteering at the international AIDS conference. “Nobody at that archaic institution knows anything about human rights,” she said when I finally got her on the phone. Reagan never used the library when she was at McGill. She preferred to do her research in what she called the “real world.” As far as I could tell, that meant hanging out at grungy bars with her blue-haired Daily friends.
Regan recommended trying the library at a “progressive” university like Concordia or the Universite du Quebec, but I chose McGill anyway. I thought it might be more intimidating to go to one I had never been to before. But as soon as I walked up the library steps, my heart started racing like it did when I was a student. I used to feel stupid in that library. I was sure people were staring and silently laughing at me. I figured everyone there assumed I didn’t know what I was doing. Which, of course, I didn’t.
Not being able to handle the library was one of the reasons I dropped out. It’s pretty hard to do an arts degree without ever borrowing a book or looking at microfilm. I considered switching into sciences for a while, but the idea of doing lab experiments scared me, too.
The security guard gave me a funny look when I tried to walk past him. “Where’s your student card?” he growled.
I ran out of the library and found a pay phone. I left a message on Reagan’s machine, asking if I could pick up some of her Amnesty International material.
Monday, June 12, 1989
I spent a few hours sitting in the Paragraphe Bookstore’s cafe, poring over Reagan’s Amnesty pamphlets. I’ve always liked bookstores better than libraries. In bookstores, it’s OK to wander around without knowing what you’re looking for. In libraries, you’re supposed to know. But if I knew what I wanted, why would I need a library?