cover image Digging Up the Mountains

Digging Up the Mountains

Neil Bissoondath, Author Viking Books $15.95 (247p) ISBN 978-0-670-81119-9

Alienation, terror and essential homelessness inform the lives of all the characters evoked by this Indian writer from Trinidad, who makes his home in Canada. From the title story, in which Hari, once a substantial Port-of-Spain businessman, is stripped of his dignity and his patrimony and abandoned, to the final surrealist tale, ""Counting the Wind,'' in which a cemetery-keeper's wife and baby are brutally murdered in a struggle for power, there is no place of sanctuary or welcome. The dilemma is reduced almost to a formula in ``Dancing,'' when Sister James is lured from her little sunlit house in the islands and her pitiful monthly wage to wintry life in Toronto, where the pay is higher and the housing more sophisticated, but no warmth seeps in. The author's manifest despair, his quest for a solution, is poignant enough, but the writing is too self-conscious and the thesis too repetitive for the tragedy of these small peoples' lives to seize the reader's mind and heart. (August 12)