BROTHER - David chariandy
Brother explores questions of masculinity, family, race, and identity as they are played out in a Scarborough housing complex during the sweltering heat and simmering violence of the summer of 1991.
I got a free copy of this book through Netgalley, and found that once I started reading it, I couldn't put it down.
Although "Brother" is a short novel, just over 190 pages, it feels like a world of its own. Within you find the poignancy and power of grief, the insinuated warmth of hidden love, the tug of brotherly affection and the need to protect those you care for most.
Immediately, the claustrophobic feeling of the neighborhood - The Park - is felt. The small rooms with no sound proofing or insulation, the immigrant families that populate it, filling it with their languages and the smells of their food. Being an immigrant myself, though one who came from a large country to a smaller one, this brought back some lovely memories. There is something beautiful in the way people always come together in times of crisis, or in mutual misery.
The population of The Park is at once a dark force and one of protection, when it comes to the main characters, Michael and Francis. They at once welcome them as their own, and ostracize them as "criminal" and "other" as soon as they step even a toe out of line. They act like an estranged family, coming through in hard times, and pushing discipline on you the rest of the time.
The emotions in this book come through sharp as a knife, both positive and negative. There is such a raw power in Michael's memories, they don't feel like a summery shimmer of recollection, rather a stark retelling of his life events. Because of that, he appears as a trustworthy narrator, one you feel for immediately. His story touches you as though it is your own.
While this covers tough topics such as racism, violence, rejection and sexuality, the book is not one I would hide from others, or warn them of before recommending it. In fact, I would recommend it loudly and everywhere, if I could. This is a book that needs to be read, that needs to be felt, and that needs to be experienced. It needs to breathe, and you through it.