In My Hands Today…

Tamarind Woman – Anita Rau Badami

1043382Kamini has recently moved from India to Canada. Plunged into the past by acrimonious telephone calls and odd postcards from her mother, she tries to make sense of the eccentric family she has left behind. Why was her Mother as bitter as a tamarind with her lot in life? Why did she seem to love Roopa best, rubbing almond oil on her skin at bath-time and never scolding her for getting her sums wrong? And where did she disappear to while Dadda was away on business, leaving her daughters in the care of a superstitious old ayah? A wise and affectionate portrait of two generations of women in an Indian family, Tamarind Woman is a beautifully evocative novel that explores the mutability of memory and unravels the deep ties of love and resentment that bind mothers and daughters everywhere.

In My Hands Today…

The Hairdresser of Harare: A Novel – Tendai Huchu

26103732Vimbai is the best hairdresser in Mrs. Khumalo’s salon, and she is secure in her status until the handsome, smooth-talking Dumisani shows up one day for work. Despite her resistance, the two become friends, and eventually, Vimbai becomes Dumisani’s landlady. He is as charming as he is deft with the scissors, and Vimbai finds that he means more and more to her. Yet, by novel’s end, the pair’s deepening friendship—used or embraced by Dumisani and Vimbai with different futures in mind—collapses in unexpected brutality.

The novel is an acute portrayal of a rapidly changing Zimbabwe. In addition to Vimbai and Dumisani’s personal development, the book shows us how social concerns shape the lives of everyday people.

In My Hands Today…

Lyrics Alley – Leila Aboulela

8965997Lyrics Alley is the evocative story of an affluent Sudanese family shaken by the shifting powers in their country and the near-tragedy that threatens the legacy they’ve built for decades.

Their fortune threatened by shifting powers in Sudan and their heir’s debilitating accident, a powerful family under the leadership of Mahmoud Bey is torn between the traditional and modern values of Mahmoud’s two wives and his son’s efforts to break with cultural limits.

In My Hands Today…

The In-Between World of Vikram Lall – M.G. Vassanji

77796Vikram Lall comes of age in 1950s Kenya, at the same time that the colony is struggling towards independence. Against the unsettling backdrop of Mau Mau violence, Vic and his sister Deepa, the grandchildren of an Indian railroad worker, search for their place in a world sharply divided between Kenyans and the British. We follow Vic from a changing Africa in the fifties, to the hope of the sixties, and through the corruption and fear of the seventies and eighties. Hauntingly told in the voice of the now exiled Vic, The In-Between World of Vikram Lall is an acute and bittersweet novel of identity and family, of lost love and abiding friendship, and of the insidious legacy of the British Empire.

In My Hands Today…

Six Metres of Pavement – Farzana Doctor

10367577Ismail Boxwala made the worst mistake of his life one summer morning twenty years ago: he forgot his baby daughter in the back seat of his car. After his daughter’s tragic death, he struggles to continue living. A divorce, years of heavy drinking, and sex with strangers only leave him more alone and isolated.

But Ismail’s story begins to change after he reluctantly befriends two women: Fatima, a young queer activist kicked out of her parents’ home; and Celia, his grieving Portuguese-Canadian neighbour who lives just six metres away. A slow-simmering romance develops between Ismail and Celia. Meanwhile, dangers lead Fatima to his doorstep. Each makes complicated demands of him, ones he is uncertain he can meet.

In My Hands Today…

Bedtime Story – Robert J. Wiersema

7682233For novelist Christopher Knox, getting up early every morning to write isn’t bringing him the sense of fulfillment it once did. It’s been ten years since his first novel was published, to some acclaim, and he’s hit a wall in trying to write his next. His marriage to Jacqui isn’t doing much better, and it’s been months since he’s slept anywhere but his office above the detached garage.

The part of Chris’s life that is going well, and brings him easy joy, is his relationship with his eleven-year-old son, David. While Chris may not make it to all of his son’s ball games, their nightly ritual of reading together at bedtime not only helps David overcome his struggles with reading, but is a calm within the storm for them both, when their days are so full of challenges. And what better way for a novelist to connect with his child than through their mutual love of books, and a bedtime story routine as unwavering as Chris’s love for his son.

When Chris comes across a book by one of his favourite childhood authors in a local used bookstore, he knows it will be the perfect gift for David’s birthday. To the Four Directions is not one Chris has read before, but he knows that Lazarus Took’s adventurous, magical stories of young heroes and other realms would be just the thing for David, as they were for him. David is less than thrilled to receive a book he’s never heard of before, however – he’d been hoping for The Lord of the Rings – and Jacqui is quick to see it as yet another sign of Chris’s detachment from David’s life.

But once they start reading the novel together, David is completely enthralled, to the extent that he truly cannot put the book down. The story, of a young peasant boy who is plucked from his home by castle guards and sent on a quest for a mysterious Sunstone, makes David feel like he is right there, in the action. Even after his parents have to take the book away from him, he can’t help but sneak it back to his room. As David is reading alone that night, he suffers an inexplicable seizure and falls into a state of unconsciousness. Doctors perform a barrage of tests, but cannot determine what’s wrong. And as David’s seizure recurs every night, his father learns that only one thing will calm it: being read to from his strange new book.

True to his nature, as someone with an inherent belief in the power of words, Chris becomes convinced that the secret of David’s collapse lies within the pages of To the Four Directions. After failed attempts to find out more about Lazarus Took from his estate, Chris traverses the continent in search of the truth. Meanwhile, David wakes up within the story he has been reading – as the boy he has been reading about – and finds himself facing perils unimaginable, in a world that he soon realizes was created to capture the hearts and souls of children like him. Because he’s not alone as he takes over the hunt for the Sunstone, but accompanied by those boys who have come before him. And as the quests of father and son lead them toward a fateful collision of worlds, David realizes that while he’s not the first to fall victim to the book’s horrific spell, perhaps he can prove himself strong enough to be the last.