STARRED REVIEW
August 01, 2018

A luminous coming-of-age tale

By David Chariandy
Review by

David Chariandy is a gifted writer whose two novels were finalists for Canada’s prestigious Giller Prize. The most recent of these, Brother (2017), is his first to be published in the United States. It is a lyrical coming-of-age story that speaks to timely issues of police brutality and prejudice.

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David Chariandy is a gifted writer whose two novels were finalists for Canada’s prestigious Giller Prize. The most recent of these, Brother (2017), is his first to be published in the United States. It is a lyrical coming-of-age story that speaks to timely issues of police brutality and prejudice.

Michael lives with his older brother, Francis, and their mother, Ruth, in the Park, a public housing complex on the edge of Toronto. Like many of the other residents, Ruth is from Trinidad and works double and triple shifts as a cleaning woman. A strict single parent, she has high expectations for her sons. But Francis and Michael have their own dreams, often escaping to the Rouge Valley, an urban oasis where they are free to imagine their future. Charismatic Francis is drawn to hip hop and begins hanging out with neighborhood kids at the local barbershop where they experiment with beats and rhymes, while Michael begins a romance with Aisha, whose father is from the same part of Trinidad as Ruth. But the legacy of poverty and casual prejudices that confront the brothers erodes their confidence and derails their plans. A tragic shooting in the summer of 1991 results in a police crackdown and leads to another act of violence that changes their lives forever.

The novel alternates between the boys’ high school years, as they struggle to establish themselves, and a grimmer, sadder present in which the family must navigate lost hopes and fractured dreams. But when Aisha is called home for her father’s funeral, there is a realization that loss can bring an opportunity for new growth.

Despite its brevity, Brother delivers an epic impact. The novel is poetic without being sentimental and heartbreaking without being manipulative. There are insights here that some may find difficult to take in, yet it would be unwise to disregard. Chariandy has something vital to share about what occurs when young lives are cut down. As readers, it is our duty to listen.

 

ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Read a Q&A with Chariandy for Brother.

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Brother

Brother

By David Chariandy
Bloomsbury
ISBN 9781635572049

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