Monday, May 30, 2011

 

Family Stories

As I’ve said before, I’m not fond of fat books of the sprawling transgenerational sort, but my neighbour across the road recommended The Toss of a Lemon by Padma Viswanathan, and since I generally like Indo-Canadian novels, I read it. Like my neighbour, I couldn’t put it down; but when I finally did, I was left with an unfinished feeling. The novel had been one thing, then another: pure fiction of the magic realist sort, with one character bleeding gold dust, another talking with Ganesh and horoscopic predictions coming true time after time; and then acknowledged realist fiction based on the author’s family’s stories—but with a fictional narrator suddenly speaking up between the story and the author’s acknowledgements. Many of the characters really delivered as they were carried through time; some, not so much: for example, Janaki, one of the main female characters, whose daughter becomes that aforementioned narrating voice, was lost between childhood and wifehood. She didn’t seem like the same person. And did the author mean for us not to understand, exactly, why the main male character treated his mother so very badly?

Then there’s Not Suitable for Family Viewing by Vicki Grant—a Canadian writer of whom I am fond. (Quid Pro Quo, et al.) This one has a female MC with romance, but has that familiar thread of mystery, quirky but solid relationships and slight tongue-in-cheek air. A truly satisfying read that I will leave lying about for a while in hopes that Wilful Daughter will pick it up.

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