by david chariandy
david chariandy’s second novel, Brother, is set in Scarborough, an eastern fringe of Toronto’s suburbs. Chariandy’s eye is keen: he serves up the “security lights and rust- stained apartment buildings,” the strip malls and parking lots, the grocery signs for produce in foreign languages. In the novel, Michael and his brother, Francis, are “ragamuffins” rummaging through dumpsters and scampering through their neighbourhood looking for entertainment. Chariandy’s story unravels across two timelines. There is the unusually hot summer when Francis is fatally shot by the police. And there is the winter a decade later, when Michael, still racked with grief, is visited by an old friend. Because the story is told in a nonlinear way that mimics memory, Chariandy’s novel feels intimately layered and complex. An intersection, a smell, a certain spot in the woods, the sound of a particular Trinidadian word in a particularly Trinidadian accent — these are like switches on the dashboard of Michael’s memory that bring us deeper into his history with his late brother. A coming-of-age story about fraternal love, Brother is the work of a refined and subtle talent.