Polar Vortex by Shani Mootoo

Polar Vortex by Shani Mootoo

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Some secrets never die…

Priya and Alexandra have moved from the city to a picturesque Countryside town. What Alex doesn’t know is that, in moving, Priya is running from her past—from a fraught relationship with an old friend, Prakash, who pursued her for many years, both online and off. Time has passed, however, and Priya, confident that her ties to Prakash have been successfully severed, decides it’s once more safe to establish an online presence. In no time, Prakash finds Priya and contacts her. Impulsively, inexplicably, Priya invites him to visit her and Alex in the country, without ever having come clean with Alex about their relationship—or its tumultuous end. Prakash’s reentry into Priya’s life reveals cracks in her and Alex’s relationship and brings into question Priya’s true intentions.

Are we ever free from our pasts? Can we ever truly know the people we are closest to? Seductive and tension-filled, Polar Vortex is a story of secrets, deceptions, and revenge.

Praise for Polar Vortex:

“How to know the shifting pieces of ourselves, how to acknowledge contradictory desires, as we are pulled into the maelstrom of desire and memory? Shani Mootoo’s intimate new novel suspends us in the vortex between acts of betrayal and acts of love. It is a powerfully unsettling work from a brilliant artist.”
—Madeleine Thien, Scotiabank Giller Prize winning author of Do Not Say We Have Nothing

“The past isn’t even past—and the present is tense with conflicting desires and untold stories. What brings clarity to this setting is Shani Mootoo’s limpid prose, clean and bracing. Polar Vortex is an honest, but also moving, exploration of true intimacy.”
—Amitava Kumar, author of Immigrant, Montana

“What a gorgeous and thrilling novel. Beautifully crafted, with perfect form and icy-clear tone—Shani Mootoo held me under her spell until the shock and release of the last page!”
—Sarah Selecky, author of Radiant Shimmering Light

“Shani Mootoo’s Polar Vortex is a powerful, fraught, and inventive exploration of the impossibility of ever really knowing the people we come to love. Told in urgent, incandescent prose and effortlessly spinning in and out of time, the book is an intimate and starkly honest examination of the complexities of sexual identity, lust, shame, regret, and how we, no matter where we come from or how we identify, are at our most complicated when it comes to the whims and failings of the human heart.” —Joe Meno, author of Marvel and a Wonder

2020 Scotiabank Giller Prize Jury Citation:

Here is what the 2020 Giller Prize Jury has to say about Polar Vortex:

“A keen meditation on the complexities of identity and desire, Polar Vortex is the unsettling examination of a failing marriage. In a small, southern Ontario town, Priya impulsively invites an old suitor, Prakash, to spend the night and his arrival triggers the fault lines in her relationship with Alexandra. Conflicting wants and untold truths drag the past into the present. Memories cascade and clash as Mootoo masterfully dismantles the stories the narrators tell themselves in language as unsparing as winter.”

Press Coverage:

Winter Books Preview: 36 Reads to Get You Through Till Spring —Becky Toyne, The Globe and Mail

Most Anticipated: Spring 2020 Fiction Preview —49th Shelf

47 works of Canadian Fiction to Watch for in Spring 2020 —CBC Books

Read an Excerpt from Polar Vortex Rungh

How a Move from Toronto to Prince Edward County Sparked Writer Shani Mootoo’s #MeToo Novel —Toronto Star

Pickle Me This: Books on the Radio —Kerry Clare, CBC’s Ontario Morning

Polar Vortex becomes a book about truth and memory, about how little we know each other, and ourselves. Strange, ominous, haunting, it’s a propulsive read and a deliciously unsettling one.” —Kerry Clare, Pickle Me This

Read an Excerpt from Polar Vortex by Shani Mootoo —Open Book

“Closure can not always be found in confrontation, or with sitting in the pain, or with a long overdue argument. Polar Vortex reminds us that sometimes healing is found by simply letting go.” —Stacey May Fowles, Open Book

Interview with Shani Mootoo —Vancouver Sun

Polar Vortex is an unsettling novel about how secrets always come back to get us – especially the secrets we’ve managed to keep from ourselves.” —Jade Colbert, The Globe and Mail

“The thematic cold snap that descends on the characters is temporary, but has permanent consequences, just as with a real polar vortex where frostbite can happen within minutes of exposure. It is an emotional mystery that gradually intensifies as more of the secrets are unveiled, which takes the reader for an unsettling but cathartic ride.” Vincent Ternida, rabble.ca

An Interview with Shani Mootoo —Rachna Raj Kaur, NOW Magazine

Book Reading: Polar Vortex by Shani Mootoo —Koffler Centre for the Arts

Launchpad: Polar Vortex by Shani Mootoo —49th Shelf

The CBC Books Spring Reading List: 40 Great Books to Read this Season —CBC Books

“‘Polar Vortex’ is a completely delicious work by a beautiful writer. It is a perceptive examination of love, desire and the need we each have to love, and have another love us, completely for all our faults and foibles.” —Charlotte Stein, Parry Sound North Star

Polar Vortex makes no compromises in conveying the grip of the past on its heady and sensuous cast of characters, all of whom sing their song, as if they were the frozen swans of Lake Ontario that Priya and Alex encounter thawing out after the polar vortex has finally passed.” —Shazi Hafiz Ramji, Quill and Quire

The Chat with Shani Mootoo —49th Shelf

Staying in with … Shani Mootoo —Vancouver Sun

17 books to celebrate Asian Heritage Month in Canada —CBC Books

Polar Vortex is, quite simply, a stunning book.” —Casey the Canadian Lebrarian

Shani Mootoo’s novel Polar Vortex is a domestic drama about the complexities of modern love —CBC Radio, The Next Chapter with Shelagh Rogers

ALU Summer Book Club: 2020 Edition —All Lit Up

ALU Summer Book Club: Polar Vortex Discussion —All Lit Up

ALU Summer Book Club: Interview with Shani Mootoo —All Lit Up

ALU Book Club: Follow-up Reads After Polar Vortex —All Lit Up

“Shani Mootoo has done it again. She has proven that not only is she a consummate writer but that she is also a keen observer of the human psyche. She is also one of the most honest and self-aware writers that one can have the privilege of reading.” —Maya Khankhoje, Herizons

“Mootoo’s subtle, thought-provoking tale stands out among stories of characters gripped by the past.” —Publishers Weekly

“Compellingly charts the complexity of human relationships, the illusions of memory, and the corrosive power of denial.” —Kirkus Reviews

“In merging a novel about refugees with a novel about decades of relationship tension, Mootoo has created something special that, much like its namesake, merges identity, friendship, sexuality, love, culture, race, and desire. Far from leaving readers chilled, Mootoo’s vortex will drive them on their own desperate searches through memory.” ★★★★★ —Ian Rogers, Shrapnel Magazine

65 Queer and Feminist Books Coming Your Way in Fall 2020 —Autostraddle

Deep Dark Secrets with Shani Mootoo —All Write in Sin City Podcast

Polar Vortex haunted me for days as have Mootoo’s other novels. Here is a writer at the full height of her power asking vital, important questions rendered beautifully through character, setting, and plot. Here is a writer demonstrating with passion and power the importance of art to understanding the world. What pleasure!” —Julie R. Enszer, Lambda Literary

Talking with Shani Mootoo on the True Story That Became Dark Lesbian Novel Polar Vortex —Julie R. Enszer, Autostraddle

“The heart of the story in Polar Vortex spirals around our efforts to construct and reconstruct the truth, to build and rebuild our selves, to create and sustain meaningful connections in our lives.” —Buried in Print

Easily one of my favorite books of the year!!” —Darryl Suite

2020 Fiction: Books of the Year —49th Shelf

The Globe 100: Our favourite books of 2020 —The Globe and Mail

“The emotional chill and chilling truths revealed in Shani Mootoo’s latest novel, Polar Vortex, are delivered with late at night, eyes-burning, can’t put down this book feels.” —Mala Rai, The Miramichi Reader

“The writing is subtle and emotionally compelling, and the reader is left to meditate on questions of the intersections of race and culture, sexuality and desire, and the past and present.” —Shoshannah Ganz, Canadian Literature

Best Fiction Titles of 2021 —The Miramichi Reader

Polar Vortex is a richly introspective and sobering look at how relationships — and our perceptions of them — constantly evolve and affect who we were, who we’ve become, and who we might be, despite our best efforts to deny that power.” —Nadine Bachan, The Fiddlehead

Shani Mootoo was born in Ireland, grew up in Trinidad, and lives in Canada. She holds an MA in English from the University of Guelph, writes fiction and poetry, and is a visual artist whose work has been exhibited locally and internationally. Mootoo’s critically acclaimed novels include Moving Forward Sideways Like a Crab, Valmiki’s Daughter, He Drown She in the Sea, and Cereus Blooms at Night. She is a recipient of the K.M. Hunter Artist Award, a Chalmers Arts Fellowship, and the James Duggins Mid-Career Novelist Award from the Lambda Literary Awards. Her work has been long- and shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, the International DUBLIN Literary Award, and the Booker Prize. She lives in Prince Edward County, Ontario.