“But most looked the way you do when you’re being studied unfavourably. When you’re being watched but also trying to see.”
— David Chariandy, Brother
There are novels out there that are strangely tagged fiction for simply being the result of someone’s imagination. This one however strives to show you that even fiction can break through its walls, goad its readers, and make us wonder if it isn’t a true story. Brother tackles on the story of Michael and Francis, two kids living in a Scarborough housing complex right in the heart of Toronto, Canada, in 1991. Weighed down by the expectations of their Trinidadian immigrant mother, these kids face countless obstacles in various forms and come to see the struggles they live with amplified by their cultural background. Their lives however bifurcate as they each find their own ways to get by under the pressure of their situation. Veiled in a stunning prose that sticks to the necessary details, Brother succeeds in telling a moving story about immigration, family, identity and society.
Short and sweet, Brother delivers its story in the most efficient way possible, seamlessly interspersing its plot with past and present narratives. While it remains somewhat mysterious throughout the beginning, especially if you magically succeed in picking up this wonderful novel without reading its blurb, the story will find its groove unexpectedly and make you realize where it wants to bring you quite quickly. As much as you’d like this one to be structured in a way that most typical novels are, you’ll end up being confronted with a unique narrative that looks deep into the development of these two brothers and their similar, yet different realities. David Chariandy does a marvelous job in highlighting Francis’ older brother role as a protector and Michael’s innocent, four-years-younger, personality. Its the bond that these two share, as well as the one that they have towards their parents, that drives the plot forward and makes us reflect on the reality of immigration, even to this day.
There’s a huge focus on the role of communities in society and their impact on individuals in this novel. Whether we like it or not, we’re never alone in this world. From blood relations to friends and neighbours, we are constantly being influenced by all these various interactions, even by those that do not exist. Brother does a fascinating job in showing the importance of communities and the way that a non-cohesive community increases tensions and internal problems among people who are already easy targets during times where prejudice and injustice are strong. This story also shows us how children of immigrants have the added pressure of performing and satisfying the expectations and hopes of their hard-working parents. The burden is easily seen through the older brother as he attempts to go after his dream in the music business, while struggling in his every-day-life.
I loved the importance accorded to music, or even more globally to art and creativity in this novel. There was this symbolism that was conveyed at some point in the story that tried to showcase the difficulty, but also the possibility or mixing together different kinds of music from different times together, and I loved what it tried to add to the overall message behind this book, especially in regards to immigration. Brother is a short and mesmerizing story that holds a lot of emotion and power in the message it tries to convey. While I thought it could’ve had even more content and a much more focused direction in the overall narrative, I still think it did exactly what it wanted to do. Even if its main events takes place in 1991, the themes that it tackles are still relevant to our current times, hence vouching to its powerful and important message and story. If there’s one thing in this novel that I really loved, it would have to be the author’s understanding of how some of us, especially people of colour, can feel the judgment of others through the mere eye contact and insignificant small gestures. This lack of communication between everyone is what drives people to do senseless things.
THANK YOU TO PENGUIN RANDOM HOUSE CANADA FOR SENDING ME A COPY FOR REVIEW!
Are you interested in Brother?
How about you read this book for yourself!
You can purchase your copy @Amazon Canada or @Chapters Indigo now!
Don’t forget to share your thoughts in the comment section below and follow us for more content!
MY OVERALL RATING: ★★★★☆/