Sunday 10 February 2008

Canadian Fiction

Finished February 9
The Letter Opener by Kyo Maclear
This novel is written from the point of view of Naiko, who works in the Undeliverable Mail Office in Toronto. Naiko's mother is Japanese and her father is Scottish. Her family think that the job is less than what she is capable of, and want more for her. Naiko's boyfriend, Paolo, is from Argentina. Naiko loves her work and feels a sense of accomplishment when she can bring an item together with its intended recipient.
Naiko becomes friends with a new co-worker, Andrei, a refugee from Romania. Andrei fled Romania with his homosexual lover, but they became separated in the escape and he has not seen Nikolai since. As there friendship continues, Andrei gradually tells Naiko his story, and when he suddenly disappears with no word to anyone, Naiko clings to his stories and tries to find the answers to his disappearance.
Naiko's own family issues also reflect here. Her parents separated years ago and her father moved to England. She feels distanced from him emotionally and has little contact with him. Her older sister is a successful journalist travelling overseas and making Naiko feel inadequate. Her mother has developed dementia and Naiko has made the decision to place her in a nursing home, visiting her regularly and trying to find a connection with her. Paolo wants more from the relationship than Naiko has been giving and she must deal also with his resentment at her fascination with Andrei's disappearance.
An altogether engrossing story of families, connections, memory and loss.

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