Cereus Blooms at Night, Shani Mootoo

shani mootoo

This was so nice to read. This was so hard to read. Shani Mootoo is a beautiful writer, and Shani Mootoo writes about difficult things.

Yes, I recognize that book reviews are supposed to contain more nuance than that. This book is widely read enough and has received enough acclaim that I’m not sure I can add much. Let me tell you, then, about what it was like to read. Mostly, I read this book in the middle of the night, telling myself I’d sleep soon. I’d get up every forty five minutes or so to re-heat the hot pack I take to bed when it’s this cold outside.

And to take a break, because this book takes you on a pretty painful emotional journey. Mootoo creates characters with remarkable depth. Tyler, the narrator, could succumb to trope but doesn’t. Showing us the full journey of Chandin Ramchandin, the novel’s bad guy, makes more challenging everything that happens to his Mala and Asha, his children, at his hand. You don’t empathize with him, exactly. But you are allowed and encouraged to understand the complicated nature of individual narratives. Too many authors skip over that part, but Mootoo doesn’t, and for that I’m grateful.

Books read: 19

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