Sunday, February 28, 2010

My Q&Q review of The Amazing Absorbing Boy, by Rabindranath Maharaj

My review of The Amazing Absorbing Boy, by Rabindranath Maharaj has been posted on the Quill & Quire website. This book has been getting a lot of attention this season, with feature-length pieces in The Post, The G&M and The Walrus, among other places.

My review of it - which is almost entirely negative - was tough to write and it took me a while before I was ready to submit it. I struggled to pin down what it was that I felt was so lacking in the book; and I was never completely satisfied that I had (in my albeit very short review) gotten to the crux of my problem with it. Ironically enough, about six weeks after finishing the novel, I read another, better novel about the immigrant experience - The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, by Junot Diaz - that helped me to clarify my negative reaction to Maharaj's book. Reading the Diaz work reinforced the fact for me that, no matter how noble or strong the intended theme (or dare I say, agenda?) of a novel is, it still needs to have real characters who live and breathe in their own skin. Diaz's creation, the ultra-nerdy Oscar Wao, is about as memorable as they come. Maharaj's Samuel comes off like a finger puppet by comparison.

For a while there, I thought I was a bit out to lunch to compare the two books in my mind. But then I saw that Donna Bailey Nurse had done the same in her review of The Amazing Absorbing Boy in the The Globe & Mail a couple of weeks ago. So go figure.

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