Set in urban and rural reaches of Alberta, Katie Bickell’s debut novel is told in a series of stories that span the years from 1990 to 2016, through cycles of boom and bust in the oil fields, government budget cuts and workers rights policies, the rising opioid crisis, and the intersecting lives of people whose communities sometimes stretch farther than they know.
Always Brave, Sometimes Kind captures a network of friends, caregivers, in-laws, and near misses, with each character’s life coming into greater focus as we learn more about the people around them. Tracing alliances and betrayals from different perspectives over decades, Bickell writes an ode to home and community that is both warm and gritty, well-defined and utterly complicated.
Katie Bickell emigrated from England to northern Alberta in 1990. Her first novel, Always Brave, Sometimes Kind—for which she received the Alberta Literary Award’s 2020 Georges Bugnet Award for Fiction—was released on September 29, 2020.
Katie’s work has received several awards, including the Alberta Literary Award’s Howard O’Hagan for Short Story, The WGA’s Emerging Writer Award, The Alberta Views Fiction Prize, The Voices of Motherhood Essay Contest, and two Alberta Foundation of the Arts Individual Artists Grants. Katie is the founder of Always Brave Creative, a writing and design company that serves job-seekers, creative writing students, and small business owners.
Katie lives in Sherwood Park, Alberta, just outside of Edmonton, with her husband and daughters.
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Praise for Always Brave, Sometimes Kind
- Joe Ponepinto, Orca Literary Journal
- Lindy Pratch, Lindy Reads and Reviews
- Carly Rigby, @carlyisreading
— Omar Mouallem, award-winning author, journalist, filmmaker
– HelenJane Shawyer, University English Instructor
- Liz Pomeroy, Irish-Canadian Lead Singer of 0Stella
- Erin Giese, Indigenous Social Worker
Doctors and nurses doing the best for their patients, social workers questioning the system, moms trying to find themselves amidst bills, kids and hockey, musicians balancing fame and tradition, fathers working sex phone lines to save their family. And they are all connected. Taking their stories in isolation would be like trying to separate the gossamer threads of a cobweb without destroying the beauty and majesty of the web itself. These stories are funny, ironic, heartwarming, and soul-breaking. And I will be reading this again, following the connections and threads through the years and families."
- Jessica Ross, Room Magazine
- 2020 Georges Bugnet Award for Fiction Jury Remarks, The Writer's Guild of Alberta's Alberta Literary Awards
- Eva, @pomoevareads
- Jessica Chapman, GoodReads
...There are moments of levity, moments where I had to wipe some tears, moments where I felt so angry at an injustice done. The characters are a diverse group from many different cultural and socioeconomic groups. Tough topics were handled in a tender way.
...I loved this ambitious novel. It made me think, feel, and seek to continue educating myself on Indigenous issues in Canada. A lot is packed into just 255 pages. At the end of what was at times an overwhelmingly heavy read, I did come away with the overarching themes of hope & kindness.
“Be brave. Be kind.”
- Meghan @plethora_of_pages
- Jen, @boberbookclub
The novel is a series of character-driven interconnected stories that will leave you with the familiar feeling of serendipity that comes with the strange and sometimes turbulent connections we experience in our own lives. With snapshots of the cultural realities of Northern Alberta from the past three decades, it’s a Canadian must-read. I devoured it like a Tim Horton’s maple-glazed."
- Heidi Klaassen, Coordinator, Alexandra Writer's Society
Follow the author on Instagram to learn more about Always Brave, Sometimes Kind, including news, book events, and upcoming creative writing workshops.
Book Club Freebies
Please consider Always Brave, Sometimes Kind as your next book club read. Below are several resources for group reading, including an event menu, party tips & favors, discussion questions, and a Family Tree featuring the friends and families of Always Brave, Sometimes Kind. The author is also available for virtual book club visits – if your group would like to ask questions about the novel, please get in touch!
Book Club Menu
Always Brave, Sometimes Kind is available for preorder and will be available for sale on September 29th, 2020.
Music plays a big part in Always Brave, Sometimes Kind, and these songs played important roles in inspiring the author through the creation of the book. Songs are listed as they appear in (or inspired) each chapter. See if you can guess where each song places in the book! (Hint – some chapters have more than one song.)