Brother by David Chariandy

I loved Chariandy’s Soucouyant when I first read it five years ago, followed by immediate disappointment when I realized it was his only novel. (If you haven’t read it, you should – it’s a beautiful and haunting combination of family trauma, family history, the destructive power of Alzheimer’s, and the uncanny ways mythology refuses to stay entirely fiction.)

So when I heard Chariandy had a mother book coming out in 2017, finally, I was over the moon – but also worried. What if Soucouyant was the only good novel he had in him? How could he ever measure up to the high bar he’d already set for himself?

Well, it turns out he could – by immersing himself in the same themes as his first novel but bringing a totally new light to the scene. Brother is the story of two brothers, and none of the words I want to use to describe it seem adequate. It’s gritty, but that’s not quite right, or at least not quite all. It’s heart-rending. It goes exactly where it ought, even though you beg it not to. It’s deeply tender and deeply upsetting and I somehow, accidentally, read it all in one sitting at two in the morning when I promised myself I was only going to read the first ten pages. Which was doubly a relief, really – because I was so worried that it couldn’t measure up to Soucouyant, and because I was so worried that I’d jumped the gun by spending some hefty cash on a brand-new hardcover that I wasn’t going to love. (As a result, the good news is also doubled: it was not only a great book, but now I own the beautiful hardcover.)

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