Brother by David Chariandy

But during that first night in Mother’s birthplace, I remember feeling afraid, though of what I did not know. Something old and unburied in the darkness, something closer to us now than ever before. I remember lying awake with Francis and hearing for the first time the scream of a rooster, my brother’s hand pressed hard in mine. The sun still hadn’t risen, and I remember looking at Francis, who lay beside me very still with his eyes wide open. I remember searching for a clue about our situation in some slight movement of his ear, or of his jaw, or of that expressive space between his mouth and nose. And when he caught me looking at him, he swallowed and nodded.

“Don’t be afraid,” he said.

36672820Oh my goodness. This book. I don’t know that I’ve read a book that made me feel more in 177 short pages. David Chariandy’s Brother was highly recommended by three bloggers I trust, Anne @ I’ve Read This, Fiction Fan @ Fiction Fan’s Book Reviews, and Naomi @ Consumed by Ink (links to their reviews if you click their names.) They did not let me down. It’s a book that I could have read in a day or two but I deliberately drew my reading out longer because I wanted to savor the writing and really let the story sink in.

Set in Toronto, flashing back from present day to the 1980’s and 90’s, Brother is the story of Michael and his older, cooler brother Francis. Growing up in a part of town called Scarborough, home to immigrants from many nations, the brothers are smart but swimming against both the high expectations of their hard-working Trinidadian mother and the low expectations of their community. The specter of gang violence haunts their nightmares and impacts their waking hours too. Their father has disappeared and their mother works two or even three low-paying jobs but still doesn’t have enough money to fix a rotten tooth. But the boys find small ways to escape and experience peace through food, music, and through visits to a nearby park called The Rouge Valley.

When we were very young, we’d build forts and hideaways in the brush, using branches but also cardboard and broken piece of furniture occasionally dumped here. We’d race twigs in the creek, spot the little speckled fish swimming together in the blowing current, hunt for the other small lives that had managed to survive in the park unnoticed. The tracks in the mud of a muskrat or a raccoon or maybe a turtle…. One fall we piled the stuff of this land over our bodies like blankets. Coloured leaves and pine needles, branches and the barbed wire of thistles. Also plastic bags and foil drifting down with smashed drinking straws and rushes. Our faces were already the colour of earth.

This is a coming-of-age story as well as a story about grief and identity. The possibility of young love gently permeates the tale, lending the narrative a bit of needed lightness. There is not a word wasted in this book. I marveled at Chariandy’s craft in creating such a powerful story in so few pages. Small details, like a mother gently pinching her son’s earlobe “lightly between her thumb and finger as if it were a raindrop from a leaf” are the kinds of things that made me want to linger instead of racing through the pages.

There is tragedy here, and the reader knows this from pretty early on, so I was bracing myself while simultaneously enjoying the beautiful, searing writing. Yet even with the devastating pain of loss there is still a note of tender hope here, that lives can be patched back up to form something new. This is Chariandy’s first novel published in the United States, and his second novel overall (2007’s Soucayant is one I must somehow find a copy of.) I am so thrilled that I learned about Brother from my blogger friends, and I hope that you will give it a try if you haven’t yet read it. It’s one of my favorite books so far this year.

 

 

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This Is My Genre – Tell Me Yours Tag

I was tagged by Jackie at Death By Tsundoku yesterday, and it couldn’t have come at a better time – I’ve been a real slacker here lately.  In between bingeing on new Gilmore Girls, the Thanksgiving holiday, and my family being sick, I haven’t felt much like blogging.  This is the kick in the pants I need to get back on track!this-is-my-genre-tell-me-yours

Drew@TheTattooedBookGeek created this tag.  Check out his blog!

Question 1:  What is your favorite genre?

While I enjoy many different genres, my go-to favorite is mystery (with a special shout out to British mysteries.)

Question 2: What is your favorite author from that genre?

Nope, no way, can’t pick one favorite.  Some of my favorites include Ruth Rendell, Michael Connelly, Agatha Christie, and Robert Galbraith (A.K.A.,  J.K. Rowling.)

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Michael Connelly

Question 3:  What is it about the genre that keep pulling you back?

I love the challenge, to see if I can solve the mystery before the detective/main character does (I usually can’t!) I also love the page-turning, immersive quality of mysteries.  I love literary fiction but I can more easily put a novel in that genre aside, while with (good) mysteries I am so caught up that I don’t want to put them down.  I love the sense of resolution and tidyness that mysteries can (usually, but not always) provide.  And with long-running series, I love seeing how a beloved character develops and changes over time.

Question 4: What is the book that started your love for the genre?1036967

Well, I’ve written before about how the Nancy Drew series and Ellen Raskin’s The Westing Game were integral to my  love for mysteries from a young age.  But I also fell in love with mysteries early on by devouring the Nate the Great books by Marjorie Sharmat, the Cam Jansen series by David Adler, and the Encyclopedia Brown books by Donald Sobol.

Question 5: If you had to recommend at least one book from your favorite genre to a non-reader/someone looking to start reading that genre, what book would you choose and why?

Oh man, this is tough.  I’ve got a few picks that I think are good places to start for a mystery newbie.  For a more literary take on mystery, you can’t go wrong with Kate Atkinson’s terrific Jackson Brodie books.  The first one is Case Histories.  It’s one of my all-time favorite reads.  410dvepm1dl-_sy344_bo1204203200_For a classic British mystery, go with Agatha Christie’s Murder On the Orient Express or The A.B.C. Murders.  For a lighter/cozy-ish spin on mysteries, try Alan Bradley’s Flavia de Luce series.  the_sweetness_at_the_bottom_of_the_pieThey feature an 11-year old precocious British girl with a passion for chemistry and tempestuous relationships with her sisters.  Oh, and she happens to help solve murders.  The first one is The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie.  And for a grittier, more violent detective series, try Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch books.  Set in Los Angeles, Harry is a Vietnam vet and a maverick detective, often fighting corrupt government officials and fellow policemen.  The first one is The Black Echo.

Question 6:  Why do you read?

I read to learn, to connect, to vicariously experience, to empathize, and yes, to escape.  I read because it’s a central part of who I am.  I read because books are “uniquely portable magic,” as Stephen King said.

Thanks, Jackie, for tagging me.  This was fun!  I’m going to tag a few people because I’d be interested in their takes on it, but if you don’t have time to participate, no worries!  And if I don’t tag you but you’d like to participate, please do so!  Or tell me your favorite genre in the comments below!  If you also like mysteries, tell me some of your favorites.

Tag:

Katie @ Never Listless

Sarah @ Reviews and Readathons

Tara @ Caffeinatious