Mootoo, Shani. “Moving Forward Sideways Like a Crab”, Akashic, 2017.
Jonathan Lewis-Adey was nine-years-old when he parents divorced and Sid, his mother ceased being part of his life. He did not see again until he was an adult and when the two reconnect, Jonathan was shocked to learn that the woman he called “mom” was now living in Trinidad and male who was now known as Sydney. For nine years, Jonathan has paid regular visits to Sydney on his island as he tries to rediscover the parent he adored and to deal with his confusion and anger over his mother’s choices.
The novel begins with Jonathan being summoned urgently to Trinidad where Sydney lay dying and now ready to share his story and the truths of his life. It then becomes Jonathan’s decision what to do with this. This is a haunting look at love, loss, and acceptance.
There are many themes here but above them all is the theme of family expectations and relationships. It is a beautifully story. Jonathan is born to a very independent and successful author, India Lewis-Adey who was is in a relationship at the time with artist and Trinidadian immigrant, Siddhani Mahale and who abandoned him with the breakup of the relationship. When mother and child meet again later, Sydney is a female to man transsexual. Jonathan visits Sydney in Trinidad off and on for many years and tries to reconnect with this parent. He tries very hard to understand Sid/Sydney’s abandonment of him and his new transsexual self.
With Sydney’s death, Jonathan goes through Sydney’s journals and letters hoping to find what he is looking for. Writer Shani Mootoo Jonathan’s pain and confusion that are a result of Sydney’s choices. Mootoo is quite a storyteller and a master of English prose. We read about the difficulties of immigration and the fluidity of gender and see how “a story is understood by and shapes both the ‘teller’ and the ‘listener’.”