“Surely it is a failure of our human design that it takes not an hour, not a day, but much, much longer to relay what flashes through the mind with the speed of a hummingbird’s wing.”
These last few days I have been moving forward sideways like a crab. Not only because my progress with this book was so slow, but also because I felt myself moving alongside the novel’s narrative. Moving Forward Sideways Like a Crab has a stunning narrative structure that is perfectly described in its title. In the book, Jonathan returns to Trinidad to collect the details of his dying parent Sydney’s life. However, Sydney seems to be stuck on the same stories: his lonely walk to the Irene Samuel Health and Gender Centre, a complicated friendship, the death of a friend.
I felt also like I was trapped in a whirlpool; I knew not where I was going as I encountered again and again the same elements of Sydney’s story, but I was compelled to continue reading as I was tugged tighter and tighter to the epicentre of the novel’s truth. And even though I had most of these details in the book’s first ten pages, I believe that to have moved through the story as it was laid out–unwinding slowly and smoothly each detail–made it a much richer experience of how it is to actually come to understand all of the complex motivations in a person’s life.
I wish I could excerpt without boring you all of page 50, so that you could better understand the significance of Mootoo’s many-sided story, but I will just hope that you pay extra special attention to it when you read this book for yourself.
When I brought this book to work with me, one of my co-worker’s shrieked with excitement that I was reading “SHANI!” who’d taught her creative writing in university. I’ve read and loved also Mootoo’s poetry and Cereus Blooms at Night, and I am incredibly jealous that I never had the opportunity to learn from her when I went to the University of Alberta (as she’d moved on) nor did I have the pleasure to grow to call her SHANI.
Books read: 3