WINNER OF THE 2023 RELIT AWARD FOR SHORT FICTION
SHORTLISTED FOR THE 2023 INDIGENOUS VOICES AWARDS
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 writer, artist, and educator who spends her summer days writing on the Prairies and her winter months teaching in the north. Francine is a member of the Saddle Lake Cree Nation in Alberta but grew up in Calgary, Edmonton, and 100 Mile House, BC. Francine is also Metis and has settler family roots stretching from as far away as Ireland and Belgium. She currently resides in Alberta and previously spent over a decade calling Vancouver her home.
Her debut book of poems On/Me (Caitlin Press) was nominated for The BC and Yukon Book Prize, The Indigenous Voices Award, and The Vancouver Book Award. Her debut book of short stories God Isn’t Here Today (Invisible Publishing) was longlisted for the inaugural Carol Shields Prize for Fiction, was a finalist for The Indigenous Voices Award, and won the ReLit Award. Francine also writes for television with credits including the teen reality show THAT’S AWSM! among others and was a recipient of a Telus StoryHive grant. Her fiction, non-fiction, and poetry have also appeared in The Best Canadian Short Stories, The Best Canadian Non-Fiction, in Grain Magazine as the 2018 Short Prose Award winner, on The Malahat Review’s Far Horizons Prose shortlist, and on the 2022 CBC Poetry Prize longlist, among others.
You can find out more about her at www.francinecunningham.ca.
“Each of the stories is quite different from the other, but many are connected by themes of death and transformation and a fragrant throughline of lemon and lavender. … The stories contain a distinct viscerality: hemoglobin and skin grafts, fantasies of rough sex and bondage, ice cream melting down forearms, and a DIY trepanation. …God Isn’t Here Today may appeal to fans of Joshua Whitehead, Chuck Palahniuk, and the trash cinema of John Waters.”—Shantell Powell, Cloud Lake Literary
“Cunningham’s characters find light in darkness, music in silence, and moments of transformation when they least expect it.”—The Quarantine Review
“God Isn’t Here Today emotionally channels the abject quotidian, akin perhaps to Cormac McCarthy or The Twilight Zone, burning with its unforgettable fruit and herbal fires.”—Catherine Owen, Alberta Views
“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