cover image Soucouyant


David Chariandy. Arsenal Pulp Press, $18.95 (200pp) ISBN 978-1-55152-226-5

Said to wear the skin of an old woman by day and take the form of a wandering fireball by night-sucking the blood of her victims-the specter of the Soucouyant haunts Adele, the Trinidad-born mother at the center of Vancouver novelist Chariandy's debut. Her story is narrated by her unnamed son, 15, who is growing up Canadian suburb with his mother, his elder brother and his South Asian-descended father, Roger, as Adele slides into early-onset dementia. Within 40 pages, Roger is killed in an industrial accident, and the narrator's brother, an aspiring poet, leaves home after Adele ceases to recognize him. After the narrator himself tries to leave but returns, he finds Adele now cared for by a dubious caretaker named Meera. In an embedded narrative, Chariandy unravels the hidden tragedies of Adele's youth, which included an encoutner with the spectre of the book's title. As the narrator seeks a sense of his family's history and an understanding of what his mother's Soucouyant experience actually amounted to, he grows closer to Meera, who brings baggage of her own. Adele's, Meera's and the narrator's relationships with their mothers intersect affectingly in this haunting coming-of-age story.