In Susannah M. Smith’s How the Blessed Live (Coach House), Lucy and Levi are twins who grow up motherless on an island in Lake Ontario. Their father Daniel is an ethereal character, still communicating with his dead wife. Meanwhile, in the present day the twins have been torn apart: Lucy is hiding with the freakish Holy Circus in Vancouver, slowly destroying her body; Levi is deep in his art in Montreal, obsessed with mummification. A family secret lies within the pages of How the Blessed Live, but it is boring and predictable. Much of Lucy and Levi’s story is presented in unusual, luminous language, but the rest of the book, Daniel’s diary, is flat and uninspired. There are no secrets in Maggie’s Family by Susan Haley (Gaspereau Press), only stories that Maggie, the matriarch, never bothered to tell her teenage daughters. Haley’s evocation of a small Nova Scotia town is blessedly free of the melodrama usually found in novels about life in the Atlantic provinces. Shortly after she and her husband separate, Maggie returns to Amadou Bay, where she is reunited with her first love, Tom. Romance animates Maggie and inspires her to share the story of her parents’ marriage and her own childhood. She, her daughters, Tom and his colleagues in a theatre company spend an idyllic summer that can only end with disappointment. Haley’s characters and settings are brought to life so vividly that I began to feel like another member of Maggie’s family.