GSWS Feminist Book Club - January 2023

March 21, 2024

GSWS Feminist Book Club's January Book:


David Chariandy

McClelland & Stewart

The GSWS Feminist Book Club had a rousing start to 2023 with its first meeting of the year and a discussion of David Chariandy’s novel Brother, which some of the participants though might be more aptly entitled Mother. Overall, the majority view was that the novel deserved a rating of 4 to 4.5 out of 5 with the caveat that it may not be a suitable recommendation for some readers who may be overly affected by the personal nature of the work. It’s not that stories and voices of struggle should not be heard and read, but a recognition that sometimes it’s difficult to see those you know and love cry over fictional characters and events.

That concern demonstrates the power of the story Chariandy has woven and its ability to move readers. The narrative drops you into a space and time in such a realistic manner that one wonders if this is in fact an exquisitely camouflaged memoir. The effect of the story is not only to ask readers to appreciate, empathize, and commiserate with a tale of struggle imbued with grief, poverty, and violence, but to reflect on one’s own privilege if the experience of racism and immigration is not one’s own. However bleak, the book also asks us to consider the strength of a community and a collective in helping each person to get by, and how, for so many, life is not about thriving. It’s about surviving.

While the conversation also delved into critiques around character development and an ending that some found unrewarding, most of the evening’s participants enjoyed the book and would comfortably recommend it to others because of the beautiful way in which Chariandy has written this story of a mother, her sons, their friends, lovers, friends, acquaintances, and the dangers and difficulties they encounter. 

Overall, the shattering impact of grief embodied in the story affected all the readers because Chariandy paints a picture of the ways in which it can rip a family apart, drill holes in a community, leave a mother in pieces, and a younger brother left to live as a hollowed out shell. Ultimately though, there is the promise of redemption in Chariandy’s emotional exploration of life in the suburbs of Toronto. Enough of a promise that broken families can heal when they expand the notion of who their loved ones are, and how collective memories of suffering and happiness, of tragedy and joy, serves as a glue that allows each of us to keep our feet on the ground and gives us enough courage to take the next step, the next breath.