OK, book three of Canada Reads 2019 down. After reading Brother, I’m becoming skeptical of the tagline for this year’s competition – “one book to move you”. It should probably be, “Canada Reads: Embrace Depression.”
David Chariandy’s novel Brother is an absolutely tremendous, albeit heartbreaking read. Alternating between the past and the present, Chariandy’s book tells the story of two brothers and their single mother living in The Park – a Scarborough housing community outside Toronto.
I wouldn’t be so bold as to say that I know the depths of the challenges the two brothers faced on their journey, but there were a few similarities that had me identifying with their situation. Like Michael and Francis, my brother and I grew up in community housing with a single parent. I’m probably about the same age as the narrator, or at least I believe I am, and we didn’t have a lot of money to go around. Fortunately for my brother and I – and unfortunately for the duo in the novel – that’s about where it ends with regards to commonality.
Chariandy’s writing here is beyond impressive. Despite the tragic nature and overall tone of the novel, it was one of the most enjoyable reads I’ve had in quite some time. There was such an effortless flow to his prose that it put me right inside that housing complex with the two brothers and their group of friends, way back in the sweltering summer of 1991. This is a story that could easily lend itself to another one to two hundred pages, but Chariandy keeps it lean and mean while making sure to pack a punishing emotional punch.
Brother is another example of the greatness of Canada Reads. Like Suzanne, this novel would not have been anywhere near my radar. I’m happy to have read it and will no doubt be recommending it going forward.