Welcome to the Family

Reviewed by Magali Blanc

The social links we develop throughout our lives are scrutinized in the three novels written by Canadian authors Anita Anand, Lisa Moore, and Alex Pugsley. They follow the same pattern of a systematic back and forth rhythm throughout the stories, points of view, and characters. With Shimmer by Pugsley, the reader is bound to an in medias res reading of the nine different snapshots, whereas with A Convergence of Solitudes by Anand, and This is How We Love by Moore, the reader jumps back and forth in the characters’ storyline. Like the movement of the waves bringing in new waters as they come crashing onto the shore, their withdrawal is what allows the untold to be discovered. Only then can the characters dive deeper into the intricacies of the concept of a relationship and start reflecting on what it is made of. What are the elements that constitute the creation of a bond among individuals? And above all, what makes a family, a family? This natural rhythm given by Mother Nature is what links our novels graphically and narratively.


Shimmer by Pugsley puts you right into stories that have neither started nor finished. You will witness shreds of stories, take a peek at the nine different lives of teenagers making their way towards adulthood. And, once they hit this stage in their lives, you will follow them during one of their sessions with a psychologist trying to understand why they keep repeating the same mistakes. In a way, it is a roadmap to the complexities of personality and, without giving readers a beginning or an ending, they are doomed to not get the full picture (or story in this case), nor have an answer to their questions right away. However, the answer may be waiting for you in the next chapter/story, or the next encounter. Pugsley plays with readers’ curiosity in these snapshots of stories. Narratively speaking, he is very up to date as he follows the trend of Generation Z: getting access to information very fast, not really remembering it, but eventually moving on to mature somewhat, to wonder how this process has affected them.


This questioning of the construction of the self echoes the two other novels, but this time through a different lens: that of the family. A Convergence of Solitudes follows two families, an artistic one, represented by the music of the Québécois father: and an academic one, pursuing the dream of a better life in a new country. Both share the wish to be set free and start fresh; whether it is for their province, Québec, or for their family, immigrating from India. The common thread in these two stories is the daughters. Rani was first the baby-sitter, and then later the counsellor of the little Québécoise, Mélanie. As the stories unfold, so does the music (another shared feature). The reader is constantly accompanied by the songs of the Québécois group Sensibilité. One author uses the lily, the other the chakra, as symbols. Two cultures, two families, two losses, two processes around the question of identity. By reading the lives of Rani and Mélanie, one may be amazed at how quickly the roles can be reversed: the counsellor becoming the patient, for the two women initially come from a different culture. Both are originally from Asia, and Québec has been their adopted “mother”: motherland for Rani and her family, motherhood for Melanie, as her biological mother is not Jane.


This is How We Love evolves around three major characters: Jules (mother of Xavier), Xavier himself, and Trinity. The focus is on love and the concept, the idea one may have of it. Lisa Moore questions and reverses our preconceived ideas of parenthood by reminding the reader that the parent was once a child. What makes this novel worth reading is how easily the author immerses the reader into the intertwined relationships of the characters. The vivid and very detailed descriptions make it so much more real, that in the end you feel you are a part of the story and even more, a member of the family.


There is a sense of familiarity in their writings. Is it because of the places and cities of Canada, the events happening to the characters, the stories themselves? Who knows . . . But one thing is for sure, the authors choose a style that makes it easy to dive in and follow; as if we have known these characters for our entire lives. The feeling is so strong that should you choose to read one of them, you too will feel connected and part of the family. So readers, welcome to the family!

This review “Welcome to the Family” originally appeared in Canadian Literature, 6 Sep. 2023. Web.

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