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Moving Forward Sideways Like a Crab Hardcover – May 2, 2017
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Long-listed for Canada's Scotiabank Giller Prize.
Short-listed for the Lambda Literary Award.
"Readers who enjoy rich details of place will find Mootoo's writing about her settings to be luxuriant; we are especially treated to abundant descriptions of Trinidad...[A] thoughtful exploration of place and identity."
"Mootoo's character-driven novel is rich in setting and slow in pace, inviting the reader to linger over its closely observed details. "
"Mootoo has produced a stunning meditation on story...[This novel] portrays the beautiful (yet often tense) bond between a parent and child, the complexities of immigration, the fluidity of gender, and provides a juxtaposition between two extreme climates, Toronto and Trinidad. It is a gorgeously written novel."
--National Post (Canada)
"Jonathan Lewis-Adey's mother left when he was nine, but when he finds his estranged parent again, he is surprised to find that the person he knew as his mother has become a man named Sydney. Set in the Trinidad of her upbringing, Shani Mootoo's vivid writing explores the pain and confusion Jonathan experiences as a result of Sydney's choices."
--World Literature Today, included in the Nota Bene section
"A fascinating premise that gives voice to the queer-identified...Mootoo's brilliant evocations of [Trinidad's] paradisiacal glow...are a real gift to the reader."
--Globe and Mail (Canada)
"In rich and vivid descriptive prose, Mootoo portrays her characters' journeys between countries and toward greater selfhood."
--Quill & Quire, starred review
"The novel's greatest triumph is its painfully poignant characterization of a privileged son, who cannot always embrace the transition that his mother--now father--has made."
--Asian American Literature Fans
"Queer Canadian visual artist and writer Shani Mootoo's latest novel Moving Forward Sideways Like a Crab follows the journey of writer Jonathan as he searches for the mother who left when his parents divorced."
--Baltimore Out Loud
"A powerfully moving tribute to the lasting power of storytelling and the surprising and unpredictable nature of human emotion. It's truly an excellent literary feat and a great story to get lost in!"
--Bookworm Shawn (blog)
Jonathan Lewis-Adey was nine when his parents separated, and his mother, Sid, vanished entirely from his life. It is not until he is a grown man that Jonathan finally reconnects with his beloved lost parent, only to find, to his shock and dismay, that the woman he knew as "Sid" in Toronto has become an elegant man named Sydney living in his native Trinidad. For nine years, Jonathan has paid regular visits to Sydney on his island retreat, trying with quiet desperation to rediscover the parent he adored inside this familiar stranger, and to overcome his lingering confusion and anger at the choices Sydney has made.
At the novel's opening, Jonathan is summoned urgently to Trinidad where Sydney, now aged and dying, seems at last to offer him the gift he longs for: a winding story that moves forward sideways as it reveals the truths of Sydney's life. But when and where the story will end is up to Jonathan, and it is he who must decide what to do with Sydney's haunting legacy of love, loss, and acceptance.
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About the Author
- Publisher : Akashic Books (May 2, 2017)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 310 pages
- ISBN-10 : 161775577X
- ISBN-13 : 978-1617755774
- Item Weight : 13.6 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.6 x 1 x 8.3 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #7,018,670 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
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This is a story about storytelling. How a story is understood by and shapes both the ‘teller’ and the ‘listener’.
It is a story of unfolding layers - layers and layers of culture, ethnicity, origins, immigrant experiences and expectations, friendship, city life - island life, cold climate - tropical climate, Toronto - Trinidad, family expectations and relationships, gender, physical appearance, childhood experiences, lesbian and bisexual relationships, and storytelling.
It is a very descriptive story - of language, place, local customs, city life, emotions. I was caught up on every page with descriptions - of snow, of the walk Sid makes to the clinic, the Hindu funeral rituals, Sid’s friendship with Zain. Mesmerizing.
The story begins with a prologue of sorts - From Sydney’s Notebook; Moving Forward Sideways Like A Crab by Jonathan Lewis-Adey follows and is written in 3 parts with 12 chapters.
Jonathan is born to a very independent and successful author, India Lewis-Adey. She is in a relationship at the time with artist and Trinidadian immigrant, Siddhani Mahale. ‘Sid’ in effect raises the young child (Jonathan) which leaves India time to fully concentrate on her writing career. When their relationship cools several years later, India tells Sid to leave and Sid can’t bring herself to say good-bye to young Jonathan. This begins Jonathan’s very deep feelings of abandonment.
Many years later, Jonathan begins searching for Siddhani Mahale and is puzzled when he can only locate a Mr. Sydney Mahale in Trinidad.
Sydney is indeed Sid and has undergone sex reassignment surgery. Sydney is now a female to man transsexual. Jonathan visits Sydney in Trinidad off and on for many years trying to reconnect with this very important parent figure. Jonathan is also trying to understand Sid/Sydney’s abandonment of him and his new transsexual self.
Jonathan is always the ‘listener’ and when Sydney dies, Jonathan tries to understand Sydney through Sydney’s journals and letters as the ‘teller’.
There are many strong characters in this story - Siddhani/Sydney Mahale, India Lewis-Adey, Jonathan Lewis-Adey, Zain - best friend, confidante and inner voice of Sid and later Sydney, Sydney’s staff in Trinidad, the mysterious Eric, Anta - who helps organize Sydney’s Hindu funeral.
It is a very lyrical, poetic, emotional story - rich in its settings, emotions, gender and story-telling. I can’t stop thinking about this story and its participants.
Mootoo's book about characters moving through life lacking something: a true gender, a sense of being loved, a need for attention is a thoughtful, very personal sounding contemplation told through Jonathan's memories, Sydney's journals, and Zain's letters. Their stories are interwoven into one, traveling from Canada and the told over-and-over-again story of the snowy cold day Sydney walked to the clinic to have her breasts removed, to Trinidad where Jonathan, Sydney, and the servants who work for him eat the most West Indian of food, look out over the most West Indian scenery, and live life in a very Trinidadian manner.
The novel is compelling and one becomes interested in the characters. Mootoo's first novel, CEREUS BLOOMS AT NIGHT was much more West Indian in nature, with gender being more of a subplot. Now, in this book, Mootoo's fourth, gender identity takes first place and the West Indies come in second. It is almost as though an editor said "But you've lost that West Indian feeling! Get it back!" and Mootoo obliged by adding nature scenes, descriptions of food, and adding close-up looks at Trinidadian Hindu customs.
There is much to like about MOVING FORWARD even though it is difficult to get to know Sydney (almost as if as a real-life person, Sydney would not let anyone too close), and the chief narrator, Jonathan, is not particularly likable, being a bit self-centered, feeling cheated of the years he spent without Sydney, wanting to be the son, but really wanting a mother and not the father that Sydney has become. Zain may be the most interesting character as she seems (through her letters) to say what she feels, and she gives love freely even though it may not be quite in the manner in which Sydney craves it.
Mootoo introduced some interesting plot elements that were not followed up upon thoroughly and leave the reader a bit disappointed. There is a horrific murder of a main character, yet this is never totally addressed or totally resolved, even though most readers will be waiting to hear a different ending.
For fans of Shani Mootoo, this book will not disappoint, but it will make one think: about why many move forward in life by moving "sideways," why there is so much dissatisfaction in relationships, how religion and community play into life choices, and what defines friendship. For those who are reading Mootoo for the first time, this may not be the best book to start with. Reading Mootoo's books chronologically may be helpful not only to allow a new reader to become acquainted with her style, but also so that her development as a writer can be clearly seen.