After a week of spirited debate on CBC television and radio, five judges chose Guy Vanderhaeghe's "The Last Crossing" as the Canada Reads winner for 2004 (reviewed Feb. 17). The annual contest resembles America's reality TV craze, except that it pits books against one another instead of underwear models. Each day, from Feb. 16 to Feb. 20, the five judges - a musician, a filmmaker, a writer, an opera singer, and the mayor of Winnipeg - argued for their favorite novel before voting one title off the island, so to speak. The winner was presented as a book all Canadians should read.
Vanderhaeghe's novel tells the story of two Englishmen searching for their idealistic brother in the American West after the Civil War. The other finalists were:
• "The Heart is an Involuntary Muscle," by Monique Proulx
• "Barney's Version," by Mordecai Richler
• "Green Grass, Running Water," by Thomas King
• "The Love of a Good Woman," by Alice Munro
Canadian publisher McClelland & Stewart will donate a portion of the profits from "The Last Crossing" to the ABC Canada Literacy Foundation. For more information, go to www.cbc.ca/canadareads/