Always Brave, Sometimes Kind

A Novel

By (author): Katie Bickell
ISBN 9781927366912
Softcover | Publication Date: September 29, 2020
Book Dimensions: 5.5 in. x 8.5 in.
272 Pages

About the Book

An exciting debut novel told in connected short stories that captures the diverse and complicated networks of people who stretch our communities—sometimes farther than we know.

Set in the cities, reserves, 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.

We meet a teenage runaway who goes into labour at the West Edmonton Mall, a doctor managing hospital overflow in a time of healthcare cutbacks, a broke dad making extra pay through a phone sex line, a young musician who dreams of fame beyond the reserve, and a dedicated hockey mom grappling with sense of self when she’s no longer needed—or welcome—at the rink.

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.

About the Author(s)

Katie Bickell emigrated from England to northern Alberta in 1990. Her fiction has been published in the Tahoma Literary Review and Alberta Views and her essays have appeared in WestWord Magazine, HERizons Magazine, and on The Temper. Chapters from Always Brave, Sometimes Kind have received the Alberta Literary Award’s Howard O’Hagan for Short Story, the Writers Guild of Alberta’s Emerging Writer Award, and won the Alberta Views Fiction Prize. Katie lives in Sherwood Park, Alberta, just outside of Edmonton.


Always Brave, Sometimes Kind is forever beautiful. Bickell’s debut is a loving portrait of the people that you think you know, but don’t really, and who feel even more familiar thanks to her accurate map of one city’s past, politics, and pulse.” —Omar Mouallem, award-winning author, journalist, filmmaker

“Vivid and compelling . . . We need writers like Bickell to remind us of the injustices that lie outside our personal experience, and to prod us to take action to remedy them.” —Orca

“Richly textured and absorbing.” —Prairie Books NOW

“A jigsaw puzzle of a novel that appeals to my social justice warrior self. . . Righting historic wrongs is a theme that left me with a hopeful feeling after I finished reading Always Brave, Sometimes Kind.” —Lindy Pratch, Shadow Giller reviewer

“You know when you see a beautiful painting filled with colour, light and shadow, every intricacy a carefully considered piece of the whole picture? I love books with the same rich tones and purposeful choices, like Always Brave, Sometimes Kind. 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 Klassen, @hyde_in_plain_sight