Doctor, Farzana. “Six Metres of Pavement”, Dundurn Press, 2011.
Past to Present
I was fortunate to have met Farzana Doctor at the Saints and Sinners Literary Festival in New Orleans last month and we spoke briefly about her new book. I also was lucky enough to hear her read so I now feel totally prepared to talk about “Six Metres of Pavement”.
Doctor gives us the story of Ismail Boxwala, a man who made a mistake in the past and has yet to totally come to terms with it. Boxwala is middle-aged and he was a gentle and sensitive Indian immigrant who has come to Toronto. Some twenty years before, he accidentally left his child in his car and she died as a result. The accident destroyed his marriage and caused him to resort to drink but he was able to stay at his job and keep his home. He finds himself now attracted to Celia Sousa, a middle aged Portuguese widow who lives in poverty as her husband squandered the family money on gambling. She lives down the street from Boxwala and passion grows between the two.
There is another subplot—that of Boxwala and Fatima Kahn, a bisexual Indian college student that Ismail befriends. However we see that the past never truly escapes him and he is haunted by the terrible mistake he made. We feel his pain and we suffer with him and this is because we have been taught that a parent is not to bury a child. But there is hope here as well and that seems, to me, to be what the book is really about—second chances.
Doctor not only draws wonderful characters, she also writes expressive dialogue. However what really impresses me about this book is how emotions are presented. I found myself both crying with the characters and laughing with them. I fell in love with both Ismail and Celia and I felt their suffering. I can only imagine what kind of life Boxwala had living with the fact that he killed his daughter. Doctor also brings diversity front and canter blending Canada, India and Portugal together and she gives her characters a chance to embark on a journey where everything will be all right. Ismail is able to rebuild his life and broaden his experience with help of both Celia and Fatima. These characters are so real that I felt that I actually know them and that if I loved up from the pages, they would be in the room with me.
Ismail is able to return from his self-imposed isolation when he realizes that he has to power to love once again. By becoming friendly with Celia and Fatima, he realizes that everyone bears some type of problem and all he had to do was walk six metres and salvation of a sort awaited him. Fatima, on the other hand, was thrown out of her parent’s house because of her queer activism but her meeting with Boxwala caused her life to take a new course.
We face the challenges that the characters face—we feel Boxwala’s pain, he feel Celia’s widowhood and poverty and we identify with Fatima as she struggles to deal with her family. Each character has a different kind of isolation but they are redeemed by friendship and love. Change is possible as we see here and Farzana Doctor treats us to beautiful writing and a wonderful story.
- Posted in: GLBT fiction