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Six Metres of Pavement [Paperback]

Farzana Doctor
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 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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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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

"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. "

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.

The premise for Farzana Doctors second book is compelling.

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.

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.

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!

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.

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

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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a gentle and true novel July 8 2011
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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This was a book I enjoyed , although not a happy / feel good topic. The main character accidentally leaves his infant child in the car seat ( for a day , broiling in summer heat ) which I found a bit unbelievable . That being said, the story goes on to tell how the father 'gets on with his life' , as best as one can , under those conditions. I would definitely read future books by this author.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Six Metres March 22 2011
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
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
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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