From Publishers Weekly
Said to wear the skin of an old woman by day and take the form of a wandering fireball by night-sucking the blood of her victims-the specter of the Soucouyant haunts Adele, the Trinidad-born mother at the center of Vancouver novelist Chariandy's debut. Her story is narrated by her unnamed son, 15, who is growing up Canadian suburb with his mother, his elder brother and his South Asian-descended father, Roger, as Adele slides into early-onset dementia. Within 40 pages, Roger is killed in an industrial accident, and the narrator's brother, an aspiring poet, leaves home after Adele ceases to recognize him. After the narrator himself tries to leave but returns, he finds Adele now cared for by a dubious caretaker named Meera. In an embedded narrative, Chariandy unravels the hidden tragedies of Adele's youth, which included an encoutner with the spectre of the book's title. As the narrator seeks a sense of his family's history and an understanding of what his mother's Soucouyant experience actually amounted to, he grows closer to Meera, who brings baggage of her own. Adele's, Meera's and the narrator's relationships with their mothers intersect affectingly in this haunting coming-of-age story.
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Chariandy pulls off achingly beautiful prose, the kind of writing that you want to read aloud to have the words roll around on your tongue, reminiscent of Arundhati Roy's poetic language in The God of Small Things
. Some of the passages simply take your breath away with their trenchant observations.
(Edmonton) (Vue Weekly
This elegant and accomplished book strikes me as Southern in its historical preoccupation with racism, violence, and dispossession, and the impact of these things on contemporary experience.... This is a very successful novel, partly due to an unerring consistency of tone, which is eerie and melancholic, but also due to Chariandy's tender portrayal of Adele, whose exuberant spirit, even in fragile, deepest madness, is never entirely extinguished. Chariandy is an observant, eloquent writer.
―Donna Nurse, Toronto Star
This is an electrifying novel by an extremely gifted writer. Soucouyant
is about personal history but it is also much more than that. It is about time and place and the individual's quest for a vantage point between the new world and the old. Soucouyant
bridges geographic, cultural, and generational gaps, and it is 'told' with great beauty and sensitivity towards loss and pain that is extremely rare. The writing itself is of the highest order. This is a novel that will remain with readers for a long time.
―Alistair MacLeod (Alistair MacLeod Alistair MacLeod
David Chariandy is a brilliant young writer whose novel, Soucouyant
, is tender and beautiful, but also as tough and craggy and precipitous as the Scarborough Bluffs where it is set. Soucouyant
is about the disintegration of a mother's life, witnessed and described by her son with a compassionate accuracy, a man in the drifting soul of a woman. With careful brushstrokes and symphonic imagination, the author reveals to us the crises of filial love, of multicultural society, of language itself. The resulting narrative is magnificent.
―Austin Clarke (Austin Clarke Austin Clarke
Chariandy has created a breathtaking panorama of two lives and the ways they've shaped each other. Tight, expansive, poetic, and true to the realities of presenile dementia, Chariandy's world is brutal, sympathetic, and beautiful.