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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.
―Vue Weekly (Edmonton) (Vue Weekly 2007-10-25)
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 (Toronto Star 2007-10-28)
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 2007-06-04)
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.
―See Magazine (See Magazine 2007-08-16)
David Chariandy fully inhabits his story, his authorial labours surefooted and invisible. His closing chapter reprises that authenticity, revealing childhood horrors that shock us to a final understanding.
―The Globe & Mail (The Globe and Mail 2007-09-15)
A haunting coming-of-age story.
―Publishers Weekly (Publishers Weekly 2007-10-01)
Not many books have re-read appeal, at least not to a critic. But after finishing David Chariandy's Soucouyant, I returned to the beginning and started all over again, finding renewed pleasure in each lyrical line.... Chariandy's heart-wrenching tale of a son trying to reconnect with a mother who has sunk deep into the mysterious nowhere land of Alzheimer's leaves a deep imprint upon the soul.... The texture of his prose is silken, his phrasing melodic.
―Montreal Gazette (Montreal Gazette 2007-11-17)
Soucouyant moves fluidly between past and present. Chariandy's writing is filled with striking details, moments both humorous and poignant and solid narrative pacing.... The demons that come to life in this powerful story of remembrance will seem familiar if you've ever tried to make amends for past errors, or loved someone through the anguish of forgetting.
―Vancouver Sun (Vancouver Sun 2007-11-17)
Soucouyant pulses with life and vigour, even as it breaks under the weight of age and sorrow. Chariandy writes with a rich clarity that never feelscluttered, an elliptical approach to both characterization and storytelling that feels utterly natural and unmannered. Rooting the novel in both the domestic and the fabulous, he avoids the pitfalls of each; in weaving the disparate strands together, he is able to explore the deep mysteries at the heart of families and individuals to find the truth at their core. It's a delicate balancing act, and Chariandy never falters. The result is a novel that's impossible to predict, and impossible to pin down. To read it is to be reminded of the power of writing, of storytelling, of lives laid bare, in all their secrets and mysteries, on the page.
―National Post (National Post 2007-11-17)
A striking, darkly beautiful literary debut.
―Uptown (Winnipeg) (Uptown 2007-12-04)
A mature, subtly engrossing work that offers a depiction of early onset of dementia that is both compassionate and true.
―Ottawa Citizen (Ottawa Citizen 2007-12-12)
A frightfully imaginative yet psychologically astute novel.
―Winnipeg Free Press (Winnipeg Free Press 2008-01-13)
A deeply moving debut novel..... Soucouyant may be subtitled .a novel of forgetting,. but it will stay with you for a long time.
―Vancouver Review (Vancouver Review 2008-01-15)
The novel's charm lies in Chariandy's ability to convey tenderness, heartache, and humour.
―Prairie Fire (Prairie Fire 2008-01-22)
Chariandy layers his story, looking at issues of race and punching up the text with descriptions so delicate and perfect that readers may actually find themselves remembering moments from their own lives.
―Rain Taxi Review of Books (Rain Taxi 2007-01-28)
At times tangled and night-sick and at others hilariously lucid, Soucouyant is a fast, true read that leaves an indelible impression.
―This Magazine (This Magazine 2008-02-29)
As far as I'm concerned, Soucouyant is the best novel of 2007.... It's a crisp, tightly written novel, one that presents its narrative with a careful ear towards perfection. Chariandy makes sure that every note sounds right. It is a very readable, teachable novel, and I think that we should expect great things from him in years to come.
―Canadian Literature (Canadian Literature 2008-08-15)