Sometimes reading a sad story can be the best thing to snap you out of your own Toronto funk.

Hearing the author talk about it as part of a virtual literary festival on your laptop, with your eyes closed, maybe in the dark, maybe holding a plushie a little too tight, can be even better.

If your grief's a little deeper, taking in the words of someone who's spent months or years figuring out their characters' heartbreak can help you understand your own a bit better.

John Elizabeth Stinzl's novel about a non-binary character's struggle with the slow loss of a mother they were sort of iffy on in the first place has been called "unforgettable."

Editor's Choice: If You Haven't Been Touched For Six Months This Toronto Lit Fest Is For You

What I don't remember is the sound of her voice. I've been trying not to. It's easier to believe that she never said a word, that she was mute, than to think of her falling in and out of muteness. First, because of the electric storm of depression.
Now, because her brain has lost so much of its charge.

John Elizabeth Stinzl, reading from Vanishing Monuments

They spoke Friday, as part of the Toronto International Festival of Authors, Canada's biggest digital literary festival, and the event is free to watch until Saturday at 6pm.

They were joined by Catalan novelist Marta Orriols, whose own novel is about a woman whose husband leaves her for another woman and is killed hours later, complicating her grief in ways that will resonate with a lot of people during this complicating pandemic.

The two writers spoke with Scottish interviewer Janet Smyth about their own books, as well as how their understanding of grief is playing out against the backdrop of a global pandemic, where sadness — sometimes the size of a favourite shop closing, sometimes as big as a crushed career, a broken relationship, or worse — is around every corner.

The festival, with more than 200 authors and other performers from around the world, runs until November 1 and is mostly free.

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