A novel about the indignities, frustrations, and joy found in a Toronto public housing complex.
The Park is a sprawling complex home to thousands of residents struggling to find work, take care of each other, and get through another day. Like so many of the Park’s residents, Michael and Francis are the children of an immigrant single mother. Ruth came from Trinidad with dreams of becoming a nurse; instead, she’s working multiple jobs, riding buses for hours, and coming home too exhausted to even sleep. Michael and Francis are learning how to survive in the Park as young men. They know how to posture, which guys to avoid, and how to act when the police roll through. Chariandy’s second novel (Soucouyant, 2007) is a slender volume with the heart of a family epic. Alternating between Michael and Francis’ teenage years and a present time in which everything is darker, sadder, and Francis is nowhere to be found, Chariandy reveals a world of violence, frustrated hopes, and the delicate family bonds necessary for survival. The prose is beautiful and unflinching without giving way to sentimentality: “I know now that by the age of fourteen, you feel it. You spot the threat that is not only about young men with weapons, about ‘gangs’ and ‘predators,’ but also the threat that is slow and somehow very old. A mother lecturing you about arrival and opportunity while her breath stinks of the tooth she can’t just for the moment afford the time or money to fix.” When violence and an increased police presence enter the Park, the creeping sense of doom inches closer and readers can feel the oncoming tragedy in their guts. In the other storyline, set in the present, Michael and his mother stumble toward healing and a brighter day. Their journey, like the novel itself, isn’t always easy but it is absolutely necessary.
An important, riveting novel about dreams, families, and the systems holding them back.