It’s turned chilly and cold this weekend, but I don’t mind. So far the rain has held off, which makes this perfect weather for a long walk, then curling up with a well-earned hot cup of tea and a good book… hmmm… I think that will be my plan for today. But first I have a book to tell you about.
The Allspice Bath by Sonia Saikaley opens in the spring of 1970. In a hospital in Ottawa, another daughter is born to a Lebanese-Canadian family, and the father, Youssef, is not happy. This makes four daughters, and with this difficult birth, wife and mother Samira must have a hysterectomy, making her unable to have any more children. This means Youssef will never have a son, and this is the theme that underlies everything in young Adele’s life, the fact that she was not a boy and can never be a suitable replacement for a son. As Adele grows up, she encounters difficulties and obstacles both with her family and in her social life. She is torn because she was born in Canada but her parents are both immigrants from Lebanon, and they are very traditional, so is she Canadian or is she Lebanese? She is also so much younger than her sisters that she has difficulty relating to them, and they tease her mercilessly on a regular basis. The novel follows Adele as she grows from a child into a young woman, and follows her struggles as she learns to live her own life and follow her own path, independent of her controlling, obstinate father and quiet, submissive mother. This book, an award-winner for multicultural fiction, was interesting, and I enjoyed reading it, but I wonder how much of my enjoyment comes from relating to the character’s situation so much. As I was reading this novel, I felt that it could have been written by anyone in my family, as this is also my background and Adele’s age in the book corresponds closely with my own. It was interesting to find, on the first few pages, swearing in Arabic, and mentions of delicious traditional Middle Eastern foods pop up throughout the book. I was happy/sad to learn that my own upbringing and experiences with my father were common amongst children of Lebanese parents, and it helps put things in perspective. I’m not sure I would behave the way Adele does near the end of the novel, but since I haven’t yet been in that position, I’ll have to wait and see what choices I will make (I can’t tell you any more without spoiling it). I would say this is a realistic portrait of a young girl growing up in a Lebanese-Canadian family in the 1980’s, and while the writing is not stellar, the story moves along at a good pace until it reaches a satisfying conclusion.
That’s all I’ve got for you today, as I really want to get outside and enjoy this brisk fall day.Bye for now…