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Cereus Blooms at Night


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Mootoo's extremely accomplished first novel sifts intrigue, mystery, and a heady sense of the natural world into a harrowing family saga. In Paradise, a town on a fictitious Caribbean island, an effeminate, empathic male nurse is charged with the care of an aging madwoman. Silent Mala Ramchandin, a longtime pariah swathed in scandal, has an instant, profound effect on her caretaker, Tyler, who also knows scorn and isolation. As their largely nonverbal relationship deepens, Tyler discovers the shocking and sordid history of Mala's family and the sources of the scandal and of her tragic decline. Awash in the sensuous world of the islands, with insects, snails, and rare night-blooming cactus as motifs, this novel is blunt in its dissection of gender and family, exquisite in its descriptive powers, and unforgettable in its stunning stories. Highly recommended.‘Janet Ingraham Dwyer, Columbus, OH

"An impressive first novel . . . Mootoo has an impeccable ear and gives Tyler, the novel's narrator, a mellifluous voice . . . the plea for tolerance that lies at the heart of this novel is both authentic and powerful."-- "The New York Times Book Review"The sinuous unwinding of Mootoo's clever plot will remind many readers of Arundhati Roy's "The God of Small Things, which this novel resembles also in its plentitude of exotic detail, magical-realist interludes, and captivating language."-- "Kirkus Reviews (*Starred Review*)"The fecund and fertile cycles of Caribbean life pervade this powerful first novel from Mootoo, who invokes all the senses . . . to portray the town of Paradise on the fictional island of Lantanacamara."-- "Publishers Weekly (*Starred Review*)""Cereus Blooms at Night is a gem, a wonderful flower of a first novel; Shani Mootoo can be counted as one of our most gifted writers."-- "Vancouver Sun"Strong, sad and sensual . . . "Cereus Blooms at Night is wrought as deftly as a piece of lacework . . . A confident and lively first novel."-- "Los Angeles Times"Fans of magical realism will revel in the superb narrative power of Shani Mootoo's debut novel . . . Mootoo is a masterful storyteller who has woven a fascinating narrative propelled by vividly drawn characters who are both achingly human and passionately bizarre."-- "The Washington Post"A story of magical power."-- Alice Munro

The fecund and fertile cycles of Caribbean life pervade this powerful first novel from Mootoo (Out on Main Street), who invokes all the senses, especially sight and smell, to portray the town of Paradise on the fictional island of Lantanacamara. When Mala Ramchandin, the town madwoman and a rumored murderess, checks into the Paradise Alms Hotel, the only nurse compassionate enough to properly care for her is Tyler, the young narrator of the tale. As a gay man who has always been considered an oddity on the island, he forms an outsider's friendship with Mala. While Tyler slowly gains Mala's trust, readers more clearly see the mosaic that makes up Mala's sad, enigmatic life and come to understand her strange "uncivilized" habits as a form of self-preservation against cruelties endured, including her mother's abandonment, the incestuous relations forced on her by her father and, most haunting of all, the loss (via emigration) of her beloved younger sister. Tyler himself becomes more complex as he reflects on his sexuality. His self-discovery and the secrets of Mala's past might in other hands have become the stuff of melodrama, but Mootoo puts this material to much finer use in a narrative reminiscent of Maryse Conde's work. The seamless plot structure builds to a macabre, satisfying climax and to equally satisfying portraits of two memorable, complex characters against a fascinating, sensuously rendered background. (Sept.) FYI: Cereus Blooms at Night was a finalist for the 1997 Giller Prize, the Chapters/Books in Canada First Novel Award and the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize. One of Mootoo's paintings appears on the cover; she has exhibited her work internationally. She is also a filmmaker.

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