cover image That Time I Loved You

That Time I Loved You

Carrianne Leung. Liveright, $24.95 (224p) ISBN 978-1-63149-552-6

Leung (The Wondrous Woo) presents 10 sweet, sad, sympathetic stories set in Scarborough, Ontario, for a group portrait of immigrants, misfits, adults, adolescents, and teenagers, all of whom discover suburban comfort does not ensure happiness. The first story, “Grass,” takes place in 1979, as 11-year-olds June and Josie ponder two suicides: Mr. Finley, the local softball coach, and Mrs. Da Silva, a housewife with an abusive husband. The girls cannot ask their parents for explanations, because death is one of many subjects parents prefer not to discuss with children. “Flowers” shows Mrs. Da Silva’s last day, as she listens to flowers taunt her in her native Portuguese. In “Treasure,” a woman named Marilyn who is admired by her neighbors turns out to be a thief. In “Sweets,” June’s buddy Naveen gets beaten up when he wears his sister’s heart-shaped sunglasses to school. In “Things,” comic book enthusiast Darren confronts a racist schoolteacher. “Wheels,” “Kiss,” and the title story explore June and Josie’s changing perspectives upon their first experiences of womanhood. Linked by recurring characters such as Darren’s Jamaican mother and June’s grandmother from Hong Kong, together the stories track June’s deepening understanding of the place she calls home. Crystalline prose, sharp storytelling, and pitch-perfect narration enhance Leung’s accessible and affecting depiction of how cruelty undermines and kindness fortifies people’s sense of community. (Feb.)