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Six Metres of Pavement [Paperback]

Farzana Doctor
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Feb. 17 2011

Winner of the 2012 LAMBDA Literary Award for Best Lesbian Fiction and of the 2011 Rainbow Awards

Ismail 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.


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Review

I laughed and cried as I read Six Metres of Pavement and followed Ismail and Celia endearing, brave, and foolish characters who have to live with the irreparable and irreversible. Farzana Doctor blends cross-cultural empathy with wisdom, and shows us paths to wholeness. Read this delightful, warm guide to remaking and choosing your family. (Shauna Singh Baldwin, author of What the Body Remembers, The Tiger Claw and We Are Not in Pakistan)

Ismail Boxwala, an ultimately good man haunted by a horrible mistake, provides the focal point of Doctor's moving second novel in which she examines with crystalline clarity the plight of this gentle, middle-aged Indian immigrant living in Toronto. (Publishers Weekly)

If youre looking for believable characters, look no further than Farzana Doctor's fiction. She has a gift for reality-based situations and conveys anxiety and passion in a story that turns into a real page-turner. (NOW Magazine)

the characters are refreshingly genuine. Throughout, Doctor skillfully plays with concepts of motion, migration and movement, both physical and emotional. (The Globe and Mail)

Novels dont often spring sudden tears from me. This story did it several times, and never with tawdry tugs at the heartstrings. The book cuts deep, to the core of love, universal need and our responsibility to others. (Xtra! Toronto)

Toronto writer Farzana Doctor's second novel is a sensitively written story about the complexities of human relationships, with the added twist of the immigrant experience A warmly felt portrait of an unusual but successful remaking of a family. (The Sudbury Star)

Its heartfelt work about characters who come to treat their worst scars with due respect and who learn to abide in chosen families who love them. It speaks with a compassionate voice to a truth that surrounds us. (Carolesbooktalk)

"Ismail Boxwala, an ultimately good man haunted by a horrible mistake, provides the focal point of Doctor's moving second novel in which she examines with crystalline clarity the plight of this gentle, middle-aged Indian immigrant living in Toronto. " (2011-01-12)

As a flawed and immensely likable character, Ismail fascinated me with both his lack of vision and awareness for his own life, as well as his damaged heart and soul, that through the course of the book, shifts. He lives in emotional and psychic pain, never having healed, or forgiven himself. Joining him, with their own complex, painful and fascinating histories, are two very different women who have profound and life-changing effects on Ismail, and on each other. (Rabble.ca 2011-03-30)

The premise for Farzana Doctors second book is compelling. (Quill and Quire 2011-03-01)

With a quiet, inward-looking analysis of Ismails life, Six Metres of Pavement asks how mourning can make way for grief when its cemented by guilt, and if memories can be defanged. Simmering in the background is a remarkable portrait of immigrant Toronto. (This Magazine 2011-07-01)

Its enough to hope that Doctor would consider a sequel to this tender portrait of strangers finding community in each other. It would be worth the wait. (Lamda Literary Review 2012-06-02)

Some voices, despite quiet cadences, succeed in making themselves heard very clearly above the cacophony of lesser noises. Writer Farzana Doctor undoubtedly belongs to this minor group, speaking in meaningful whispers and bewitching her readers into complete submission… In her second novel, Six Metres of Pavement, Doctor takes a wild audacious leap, visibly and joyously coming into her own. This is seriously good writing here, such good writing that it hurts. The prose is punctuated with the most delicious silences, the characters display the most eccentric twirls and loops and the tone of the novel, is never, never quite predictable. Such a breath of fresh air! (The Hindu 2012-09-02)

It’s impossible to read Six Metres and be left untouched. Parents of young children will be left biting their lip because they have been in a situation where they just almost forget. College students will understand the complicated love and boundaries of their families. Older readers may recognize Celia’s unrelenting independent spirit in themselves. And everyone in between? They’ll read about a set of perfectly imperfect human beings trying to make sense of circumstances both self-inflicted and uncontrolled. And, with Doctor’s last pages, they’ll be reminded that we are all in the process of healing from something or another. (TPL’s Virtual Book Club 2012-09-18)

Set in Little Portugal, this novel offers a poignant perspective on difference and understanding. (Spacing)

About the Author

Farzana Doctor's first novel, Stealing Nasreen, received critical acclaim and was nominated for Masala!Mehndi!Masti! People's Choice Award. She has also written on social work and diversity-related topics, and in her spare time she provides private practice consulting and psychotherapy services. She lives in Toronto.


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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a gentle and true novel July 8 2011
Format:Paperback
I really enjoyed it and read it very quickly. I found the characters very likeable and the writing clear and unprentious. All of the characters were treated with real care and gentleness. It's also quite romantic, and it was nice to read about a romance between middle-aged, ordinary people. A very hopeful novel about creating your own family of people who love and accept you.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Six Metres March 22 2011
Format:Paperback
I loved this second novel from Farzana Doctor. When we begin, we meet the main characters Ismail and Celia who seem destined to be stuck in the tragedy of their losses for the rest of their lives. Doctor skillfully shows us, through the multi-layered and complex Ismail and Celia, that change can happen - even when we thing there is no more hope and often when we least expect it. I highly recommend Six Metres of Pavement. You'll embrace the characters in all their frailties, flaws and tenacity. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll reckon with the human condition and the meanings of redemption.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Life Begins at 50 ! Sept. 19 2011
Format:Paperback
At writers' conferences, it is often commented that it is riskier to set a novel in a Canadian city, than in a foreign locale say Delhi. The main reason being offered is that the plot may not be appealing to American readers. However, Farzana Doctor's second novel, Six Metres of Pavement, set in the Little Portugal district and other environs of Toronto, compares admirably with those set in the streets of a cosmopolitan city say in the UK. The themes of the novel such as, love, tragedy, family and multi-cultural relationships, sexual orientation, addiction, and redemption are its main appeal, while the setting in an ethnic neighbourhood adds to their flavour. These are all told by Farzana in her unique voice, and by presenting the local viewpoints, she voids the "MacDonaldification" of the writing as one reviewer has put it.

The book starts not only with an intriguing title and the cover, but also the captivating image of Ismail Boxwala, an Indian immigrant and a municipal engineer, who is attempting to overcome a twenty-year old tragedy by `staying in motion,' which among the normal daily activities involves a lot of elbow-bending at the local tavern. Farzana gradually reveals that heartbreaking event, masterfully, in snippets of flashbacks while moving the story-line forward and maintaining our concentration. We learn of the accidental death of his nearly two-year old daughter, who he'd inadvertently left in the back seat of his parked car on a hot summer morning. The child died leaving Ismail with immense grief, remorse and nightmarish images that haunt him virtually to the end of the novel. There are other repercussions of the loss.
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5.0 out of 5 stars compassion and hope May 20 2011
Format:Paperback
I loved this book! The story is compelling, and I could identify with many of the characters. I felt particular empathy for Ismail. Such a huge loss, such heavy guilt. The author describes his experience and feelings with great insight and compassion.

Its Farzana Doctor's compassionate story telling that wins me over. She manages to convey the profound complexities of people's actions, feelings, and relationships - all with a wise and compassionate voice.

I love how Doctor uses similes and metaphors to describe the characters' experiences and perspectives. I often found myself re-reading a line or paragraph because the image was so powerful.

This book is just wonderful - a joy to read, even the sad parts.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.9 out of 5 stars  7 reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars The book was remarkably clean. Dec 4 2013
By linda6770 - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Six Metres of Pavement was another book that was included on my daughter's Wish List. The book arrived on time. I ordered used but the book was remarkably clean. There were no marks or spots of any kind on the pages. The cover was bright...in fact, it appeared new. The spine was intact and without tell tale white creases. I was pleased with the book, as was my daughter.
5.0 out of 5 stars Streets of Toronto Sept. 20 2013
By David - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Full disclosure: I just narrated this book which will soon be available on Audible as an audio book.

I used to live in Toronto. Farzana Doctor manages to breathe life into the small sections of this multicultural city. The narrative is peppered with small sharp observations that are like microcosms of the individual lives that interconnect and pull us through the story. Hope you enjoy the audiobook version.
4.0 out of 5 stars Funny, moving, fascinating. Nov. 2 2012
By Cory - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Have you ever found yourself out in public - on a bus or subway, at a park or in the waiting room of a doctors office - and you're watching strangers and wondering to yourself; what's their story? Well this is their story.

I loved Six Metres of Pavement. Farzana Doctor is an incredibly gentle and funny storyteller with a wonderful eye for small details of life. The story that unfolds (which you're better off not knowing about in advance) is compelling, more than enough to keep you engaged and entertained. But the characters are the heart of the novel.

They become your friends, and as they fumble around trying to figure out how to survive in a world that never seems to make room for their complicated painful histories, you want to know how they do it, you laugh when they bump up against each other and themselves, and you root for them as if rooting for your own future happiness. They are the kind of characters you miss when you finish the novel.

The ways that characters sexual, cultural, and ethnic identities intersect, sometimes clashing and sometimes meshing is often laugh out loud hilarious. Their individual struggles include some unimaginable horrors, but still feel familiar. These may not be things that have happened in your own life, but it's the stuff of life that you know happens, that you've been touched by.

In some ways Six Metres of Pavement is a perfectly Toronto novel. And I should admit that I read it while away from Toronto, which probably made me love it all the more. But because Toronto is the city it is, the setting, the story, and the characters end up being both from and of countries and times far beyond the shores of Lake Ontario. It's hard to imagine anyone who won't find a friend in this book.

Doctor works a bit of magic of her own in the way these seemingly disparate characters end up in each other's lives, and in imagining a possibility of life where our connections to others - strangers, family, lovers, and the occasional co-dependent hook-up - end up being the thing that makes life worth living.

Read this book.
5.0 out of 5 stars Insightful, well-crafted and compassionate Sept. 18 2012
By Zak - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I very much enjoyed Six Metres of Pavement, reading it at first in little bites on the tram to work, then staying up too late one night to hungrily wolf down the last few hundred pages. I'm looking forward to going back and reading this little gem of a book again.

What I most enjoyed about my first reading was the insightful, well-crafted and compassionate telling of the main characters. We get to see the world through their eyes, but we're never told how to feel about them - only how they feel about themselves and others. Between how well the characters are drawn and how they've stayed with me in the week since I finished reading, I've given the book five stars.

I also enjoyed the author's writing style, which I found to be a lovely balance of spare and lyrical. The ending left me feeling both satisfied and unsatisfied, perhaps just because I expected something different but found an end that I hoped for.
5.0 out of 5 stars Life begins at 50 ! Sept. 19 2011
By Waheed Rabbani - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
At writers' conferences, it is often commented that it is riskier to set a novel in a Canadian city, than in a foreign locale say Delhi. The main reason being offered is that the plot may not be appealing to American readers. However, Farzana Doctor's second novel, Six Metres of Pavement, set in the Little Portugal district and other environs of Toronto, compares admirably with those set in the streets of a cosmopolitan city say in the UK. The themes of the novel such as, love, tragedy, family and multi-cultural relationships, sexual orientation, addiction, and redemption are its main appeal, while the setting in an ethnic neighbourhood adds to their flavour. These are all told by Farzana in her unique voice, and by presenting the local viewpoints, she voids the "MacDonaldification" of the writing as one reviewer has put it.

The book starts not only with an intriguing title and the cover, but also the captivating image of Ismail Boxwala, an Indian immigrant and a municipal engineer, who is attempting to overcome a twenty-year old tragedy by `staying in motion,' which among the normal daily activities involves a lot of elbow-bending at the local tavern. Farzana gradually reveals that heartbreaking event, masterfully, in snippets of flashbacks while moving the story-line forward and maintaining our concentration. We learn of the accidental death of his nearly two-year old daughter, who he'd inadvertently left in the back seat of his parked car on a hot summer morning. The child died leaving Ismail with immense grief, remorse and nightmarish images that haunt him virtually to the end of the novel. There are other repercussions of the loss. Some of these such as deteriorating job-performance, which Ismail is barely able to surmount, while the other major one, erectile dysfunction, he is not--at least temporarily. While his wife, Rehana, absolves him for the `worst mistake of his life' when she tells him while leaving the cemetery, `I forgive you ...' but she does not for his ED problem. After dragging him to several clinics, she--somewhat uncharacteristically for an Indian woman--walks out on him. This and other unexpected non-clichéd characterizations, such as Celia Sousa's, the 50-year old Portuguese widow, makes the novel that much more interesting.

The book's back cover blurb mentions two women who initiate changes in Ismail's life. Yet in the opinion of this reviewer, there is a third woman, his beer-drinking buddy and more, Daphne, who has a profound influence on his fate. It is she who first helps him to pacify his recovered sexual vigour--following his divorce--and later almost cures his alcoholism by taking him to AA meetings. Subsequently, she is the one who pesters him to take the creative writing course. Nevertheless she disappears from his life after confessing her lesbianism.

At the creative writing classes, Ismail befriends, Fatima, an undergraduate bisexual student, who is facing difficulties having her parents accepts her sexuality and has been turfed out of their home. Although Ismail is not sexually attracted to Fatima--she's just about the age his deceased daughter would have been--he helps her along, and the point that it is due to his latent love for his daughter is well made. Through Fatima he learns not only the meaning of queer, but also what it is like to be a destitute and homeless person. While Ismail does have some family and community friends in Toronto, who attempt to assist him in their own ways in his difficult time, it is really his friendship with Fatima and the writing school assignments that help him slay his internal daemons. He finally has the tears of grief pour out of him.

Meanwhile, although Ismail had been introduced to Celia--his neighbour six metres of pavement across the road--some time ago and had run into her occasionally, he does not initiate contact with her. It is again she who atypically connects with him. She had also been suffering emotionally in her widowhood and had been imagining visits by her deceased husband. We learn that while she was secretly spying on Ismail through the slits in the curtains from her bedroom windows, which while not unusual in those close nit communities, her further actions catch us unaware.

While the ending of the novel might be somewhat like a `fairytale,' as one reviewer put it, it is, nevertheless, wonderfully written in a congenial style and one that will `tug at the heartstrings' that another reviewer wrote.

Farzana has won much acclaim for this novel. She was awarded the Writers' Trust of Canada's Dayne Ogilvie Grant for Emerging Gay Writers, and this book was also nominated for an entry to the long list for the Scotia Bank Giller Prize. It is said that books on the short list for this prestigious award are already winners--at the bookstores--and the same can be said for a novel on the nomination list.

It should not be long before we would see Farzana's novels up on the bestseller lists, and with the popularity of the Bollywood movies dramatized on the celluloid screen as well.

Waheed Rabbani is the author of "Doctor Margaret's Sea Chest," the Book I of his "The Azadi Trilogy."
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