A few years ago, I had the pleasure of meeting and chatting with one of my favourite novelists, Madeleine Thien, a Canadian who now lives in Montreal. Madeleine writes of civil war, revolutions, neurosciences and the intense drama that mental health issues can ignite in peoples' lives. My words cannot begin to do justice to hers, so here is the powerful opening of her new novel, "Do Not Say We Have Nothing". Published by Alfred A. Knopf Canada.
IN A SINGLE YEAR, my father left us twice. The first time, to end his marriage, and the second, when he took his own life. That year, 1989, my mother flew to Hong Kong and laid my father to rest in a cemetery near the Chinese border. Afterwards, distraught, she rushed home to Vancouver where I had been alone. I was ten years old.
Here is what I remember:
My father has a handsome, ageless face; he is a kind but melancholy man. He wears glasses that have no frames and the lenses give the impression of hovering just before him, the thinnest of curtains. His eyes, dark brown, are guarded and unsure; he is only 39 years old. My father’s name was Jiang Kai and he was born in a small village outside of Changsha. Later on, when I learned my father had been a renowned concert pianist in China, I thought of the way his fingers tapped the kitchen table, how they pattered across countertops and along my mother’s soft arms all the way to her fingertips, driving her crazy and me into fits of glee. He gave me my Chinese name, Jiang Li-ling, and my English one, Marie Jiang. When he died, I was only a child, and the few memories I possessed, however fractional, however inaccurate, were all I had of him. I’ve never let them go.
This sounds like a great read, Mike!