40 Below: Edmonton’s Winter Anthology edited by Jason Lee Norman

40 Below: Edmonton's Winter Anthology edited by Jason Lee Norman | Published in 2013 by Wufniks Press | Paperback: 205 pages | Source: Review copy from the editor

40 Below: Edmonton’s Winter Anthology edited by Jason Lee Norman | Published in 2013 by Wufniks Press | Paperback: 205 pages | Source: Review copy from the editor

My rating: 4/5 stars


40 Below is Edmonton’s Winter Anthology. Stories, poems, and essays about or inspired by winter in Edmonton.

Like many (most?) book bloggers, I have some writerly ambitions of my own. Last winter, I spent the tail end of my maternity leave picking away at a submission for the 40 Below anthology. There’s nothing like a new baby and a two-year-old to make you feel the isolation of an Edmonton winter, so my story wasn’t particularly positive. Nor was it particularly good. Earier this year I received a very nice, personalized rejection email from editor Jason Lee Norman (author of Americas, my review here.) I have absolutely no hard feelings (it was pretty bad) and really enjoyed the whole process of writing and revising. If nothing else, it gave me something to do at 2am other than the usual dead-eyed scrolling through Twitter.

I was excited to find out who did make the cut. It’s a who’s who of Edmonton writers, including a whole bunch who’ve been reviewed here on Reading in Bed: Michael Hingston, Jessica Kluthe, Diana Davisdon, and Jennifer Quist. Not that it’s all #yegwrites establishment. There are plenty of authors I’ve never heard of, and even a couple of kids. Variety is the strong point of the collection. With that in mind, here are a few of my picks:

  • Story that I related to on a personal level: Sirens by Diana Davidson. It actually resulted in a Twitter therapy session as two other Edmonton book bloggers and I read it around the same time. They both happen to be pregnant, and Davidson’s story is about a first-time mother struggling with postpartum depression in the dead of winter. I brought my first baby home in literal 40 Below weather and went through postpartum depression too. Davidson gets it just right and I was shaking at the end.
  • Favourite very short story, I’m talking 9 sentences: Moon Calling by Don Perkins. Mostly for the last sentence: “But that moment of the infant embracing its own future ripeness, that’s the moon that calls.” You have to read the other eight, trust me.
  • Story that’s really a parenting lesson: A Winter Lesson by Alan Schietzsch. That lesson? Go outside. Your kids don’t feel the cold.
  • Story that reminds you exactly of being a kid: Sandwich Season by Margaret MacPherson. Kids are weird and do weird things, just like in this story.
  • Story that I didn’t want to end: Conversation by Ky Perraun. I read it and then read it again because I need to know what happened!

This book is an obvious buy for anyone who is into the arts scene here in Edmonton, but I think it has some crossover appeal too. It’s actually a great gateway drug for people who don’t read short stories. The pieces tend to be very short, and the theme is very accessible, so it’s easy to dip in and out. It would be so cool if people in other Northern climates, or even those who don’t talk about wind chill for six month of the year, picked up this book. I’d love to read some non-local reactions. I also think it would make a great bathroom book and I mean that as a compliment.  I am very picky about what books are kept in my bathroom.

Oh and if you were wondering, my story was about my memories of New Years Eve 1997, when we got the first snow of the year and the temperature dropped from zero to minus twenty over the course of a few hours. I was out without a coat (because: teenager) and made a rash decision based on getting out of the cold that affected my life for years afterward. Maybe I’ll try to fix it up someday!

 I hear winter’s about to hit Edmonton this weekend. Should be plenty of snow on the ground for the two 40 Below launch events:

Thank you to the editor for sending me a review copy of this book!

PS: Reading in Winter reviewed it too. 



  1. Kristilyn

    Diana Davidson’s story is definitely my favourite — all fear aside!

    I’d be interested in seeing the response from someone who doesn’t live here as well. Really, from someone who only has the idea of snow in their head and hasn’t actually experienced it.

    Yay for November 17th! I’ll definitely be trying to come to that one!

  2. Brie @ Eat Books

    Great review! I’m still working my way through my copy…I’m trying not to read too many stories in one sitting because then I find it harder to remember the stories on their own without them all blurring together. Although, post-its are coming in handy. Having experienced living somewhere with warmer winters, this book really reminds me that I’m a true Edmontonian at heart and that I will always have a fondness for our cold winters.

    And DUDE – I *need* to know what this rash decision of yours was! Way to leave us hanging 😉

    Sadly, I won’t be back in town for the 17th launch.

    • lauratfrey

      Oh post its are a good idea! I really need to take better notes while reading. I’m the worst and I end up half-rereading a book when I’m reviewing it. Not very efficient.

      Haha Brie, I can give you the short version, it was about a boy (of course) and basically I ditched my friends to go off with him that night, partly because it was -20 and I wanted to get out of the cold. I didn’t know he had a girlfriend at the time and drama ensued. I also dated him for 2.5 years after that :S All thanks to a crazy winter night!

      • Brie @ Eat Books

        Oh phew! That’s pretty much exactly what I thought you were going to say (that it was about a boy), but then I was worried that something bad actually happened.

        I will now sleep tonight. 😉

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