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Thirteenth Issue
Volume 7, No. 1


O Mordecai, Where Art Thou?
By Juan Rodriguez


Quebecite: A Jazz Fantasia In Three Cantos
Reviewed by Kelly Murphy

A House By The Sea
Reviewed by Ian McGillis

The Speaking Cure
Reviewed by Mark Heffernan

The Applecross Spell
Reviewed by Eleni Zisimatos Auerbach

Universal Recipients
Reviewed by Eleni Zisimatos Auerbach

Black Bird
Reviewed by X.I. Selene

A Sunday At The Pool In Kigali
Reviewed by Edward R. Smith

Song For My Father
Reviewed by Mary Soderstrom

The Heart Is An Involuntary Muscle
Reviewed by Kim Bourgeois

Another Book About Another Broken Heart
Reviewed by Poppy Wilkinson

Without Cease The Earth Faintly Trembles
Reviewed by Jessica Ticktin

fiction at a glance

After All!
Reviewed by Margaret Goldik

Moosehead Anthology #9: Career Suicide! Contemporary Literary Humour
Reviewed by Ian McGillis


Respectable Burial: Montreal's Mount Royal Cemetery
Reviewed by Margaret Goldik

Shoshanna's Story: A Mother, A Daughter, And The Shadows Of History
Reviewed by Elizabeth Johnston

Louis Riel
Reviewed by Philip Hawes

Tables For One: A Spanish Journal
Reviewed by Sarah Rosenfeld

Practice Imperfect
Reviewed by Joan Eyolfson Cadham

Ha! A Self-murder Mystery
Reviewed by Anne Cimon

Spoken Here: Travels Among Threatened Languages
Reviewed by Jill Rollins

non-fiction at a glance

Reviewed by Margaret Goldik

A Love Of Reading: The Second Collection
Reviewed by Margaret Goldik

Entering The War Zone: A Mohawk Perspective On Resisting Invasions
Reviewed by Margaret Goldik

Drive I-95: Exit By Exit Info, Maps, History And Trivia
Reviewed by Margaret Goldik

Crooked Smile
Reviewed by Margaret Goldik

Four Hundred Brothers And Sisters
Reviewed by Margaret Goldik

After Notman: Montreal Views - A Century Apart
Reviewed by Ian McGillis


Snow Formations
Reviewed by Bert Almon

In The Worshipful Company Of Skinners
Reviewed by Bert Almon

Bamboo Church
Reviewed by Bert Almon

An Abc Of Belly Work
Reviewed by Bert Almon

young readers

Emma's Story
Reviewed by Carol-Ann Hoyte

The Mole Sisters And The Fairy Ring
Reviewed by Carol-Ann Hoyte

The Mole Sisters And The Way Home
Reviewed by Carol-Ann Hoyte

Learning With Animals
Reviewed by Carol-Ann Hoyte

Sink Or Swim
Reviewed by Carol-Ann Hoyte

Suki's Kimono
Reviewed by Carol-Ann Hoyte

Peter's Pixie
Reviewed by Carol-Ann Hoyte

A Friend For Sam
Reviewed by Carol-Ann Hoyte

Sam's First Halloween
Reviewed by Carol-Ann Hoyte

Tales Of Court And Castle
Reviewed by Carol-Ann Hoyte

Think For Yourself: A Kid's Guide To Solving Life's Dilemmas And Other Sticky Problems
Reviewed by Carol-Ann Hoyte

Nellie Mcclung: Voice For The Voiceless
Reviewed by Carol-Ann Hoyte

A House By The Sea
By Sikeena Karmali
paper 240 pp.
Vehicule Press 1-55065-176-5

As for me and my house

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New Document India, Zanzibar, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Vancouver, Calgary, London, Cairo, Alexandria. When your family map encompasses all these places, how exactly do you determine who you are and where you belong? Such is the question facing Zahra, daughter of Ghulshun and Ali, heir to a tangled history of displacement and intrigue among the world-within-a-world community of Indians and Arabs in East Africa.

The start of A House by the Sea finds Zahra, who has been living and working in London after studying at the American University in Cairo, about to meet her parents (who have been living in Canada) for a holiday in Zanzibar, where the family has roots. A self-described "orphan of the seas," product (she believes) of a twice-removed Indian culture, Zahra has concluded "I wish to stop running." She thinks she can do this by claiming her namesake grandmother's old house in Stone Town, Zanzibar's old district, as a sort of symbolic family refuge. But her efforts to do so get her into a labyrinth of family history involving betrayal and secrets buried so deep that their exhumation will eventually cause her to question her very identity. The family narrative, it turns out, hinges on the elder Zahra's decision, as a 12-year-old, to forsake her arranged marriage into the local aristocracy and elope to the Swahili Coast with Vilayat Khan, an Indian Muslim of low birth. Much later, the plot thickens further when Zeena, sister-in-law of Ghulshan, takes advantage of political turmoil (Tanzanian soldiers, having crossed into Uganda to fight Idi Amin, come back espousing the dictator's views vis-ŕ-vis their Asian compatriots ) and pulls a particularly nasty family power play.

Sound complicated? It is. Readers will have to be on their toes, and it's not just a matter of plot complexity: the narrative jumps around in place, time, and perspective, names recur over generations, people are selective with the truth. Happily, the challenge of keeping on top of things is smoothed over by Karmali's rich, evocative, at times almost musical way with language. Her prose is a sensory feast--clothing, hair, weather, flora and fauna are all lingered over in loving detail. Karmali never loses sight of the importance of food in her characters' culture, listing in full the elements of many a meal, making their ingredients read like poetry. She is also remarkably adept at conveying atmosphere, a talent especially appropriate here because the settings-the international bazaar of Zanzibar, a family farm at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro, the bustle of modern Cairo and London-play a part as important as the characters themselves.

One small hiccup is the feeling that the love story between Zahra and Hussein, the Zanzibar lawyer supposedly helping her in her house purchase, never really takes off; we have to take it on faith that Zahra's emotions are strong enough to justify the drastic step she takes with him. It's a perplexing shortcoming, since the elder Zahra's early encounters with her future husband are among the most vivid passages in the book.

Overall, though, one is left with the impression of having encountered an exciting new talent. Sikeena Karmali has created a fresh take on the eternal theme of the search for a home. Véhicule Press couldn't have hoped for a better launch for its new fiction imprint, Esplanade Books.

Ian McGillis's novel A Tourist's Guide to Glengarry was shortlisted for the Stephen Leacock humour award.