LONGLISTED FOR THE 2023 CAROL SHIELDS PRIZE FOR FICTION
For fans of Chuck Palahniuk, Joyce Carol Oates, and Karen Russell, the stories in Francine Cunningham’s debut collection God Isn’t Here Today ricochet between form and genre, taking readers on a dark, irreverent, yet poignant journey led by a unique and powerful new voice.
Driven by desperation into moments of transformation, Cunningham’s characters are presented with moments of choice—some for the better and some for the worse. A young man goes to God’s office downtown for advice; a woman discovers she is the last human on Earth; an ice cream vendor is driven insane by his truck’s song; an ageing stripper uses undergarments to enact her escape plan; an incubus tires of his professional grind; and a young woman inherits a power that has survived genocide, but comes with a burden of its own.
Even as they flirt with the fantastic, Cunningham’s stories unfold with the innate elegance of a spring fern, reminding us of the inherent dualities in human nature—and that redemption can arise where we least expect it.
Francine Cunningham is an award-winning Indigenous writer, artist and educator. God Isn’t Here Today is her debut collection of short fiction, and her debut book of poems On/Me (Caitlin Press) was nominated for the BC and Yukon Book Prize, the Indigenous Voices Awards, and the Vancouver Book Award. She is a winner of the Indigenous Voices Award in the 2019 Unpublished Prose Category and of The Hnatyshyn Foundation’s REVEAL Indigenous Art Award. Her fiction has appeared in The Best Canadian Short Stories 2021, in Grain Magazine as the 2018 Short Prose Award winner, on The Malahat Review’s Far Horizons Prose shortlist, and in Joyland Magazine, The Puritan and elsewhere. Francine is a graduate of the Creative Writing MFA program at the University of British Columbia, and currently resides in Alberta. Learn more at www.francinecunningham.ca.
“Cunningham’s characters find light in darkness, music in silence, and moments of transformation when they least expect it.”—The Quarantine Review
“This is a fierce collection: fiercely smart, fiercely funny, fiercely inventive. Francine Cunningham takes the reader from strip clubs to God’s waiting room, from a tormented ice cream truck driver to a bored ghost with career aspirations. This collection almost reads like a novel, as the characters move in and out of each other’s stories—sometimes solo, sometimes in chorus—spilling out their tormented, glorious, messy lives to the lucky, greedy reader.”—Annabel Lyon, author of Consent
“Cunningham is uniquely funny even through homophobia, whorephobia, death and aching loneliness… Opening this collection feels like stepping into a lively discussion between friends you’ve known since kindergarten when someone is already mid-rant, in a good way.”—Sarah Ratchford, Maisonneuve
“The stories in God Isn’t Here Today reveal Francine Cunningham as a gimlet eye observer of humanity, with boundless empathy and a searing sense of humour. The prose is intimate and direct, like an honest best friend breathlessly telling all, while embarking on formal experimentation that guides the reader through the grand possibilities of fiction.”—Doretta Lau, author of How Does a Single Blade of Grass Thank the Sun?
“‘Pornorama,’ ‘Spectre Sex,’ ‘Mickey’s Bar’: these Francine Cunningham stories pop and pull my heart out. In her first collection, God Isn’t Here Today, the Goddess is most definitely here. An essential new voice.”—Linda Svendsen, author of Sussex Drive: a novel
“God Isn’t Here Today is a collection, I feel, that is whispered in the calligraphy of ghosts. Cunningham continues to both astound and haunt all who discover her. Wow!”—Richard Van Camp, author of The Lesser Blessed