Friday, June 13, 2014

Moving Forward Sideways Like A Crab

Moving Forward Sideways Like A Crab / Shani Mootoo
Toronto: Doubleday Canada, c2014.
336 p.

This is the first novel I've read by Mootoo, although her titles always fascinate me. This story focuses primarily on two characters: first, Jonathan, a young boy when his second parent Sid leaves their home and from Jonathan's perspective, abandons them. And secondly, and most profoundly, on Siddithi/Sidney, who has a deep reason for leaving both Jonathan and his mother, India, and for finally leaving Canada to return to Trinidad.

It deals with themes of identity and displacement, of love, and what relationships mean -- familial, neighbourly, or romantic relationships. It is told in a subdued manner, even when the content isn't necessarily quiet or smooth. This may be of great appeal to some readers, while others will find it slow going.

Personally, I thought it was an interesting concept, and the twin settings of Toronto and Trinidad were both clearly drawn. The story was certainly full of dramatic events, but the style was a bit bland for me. The story is told through the voice of both Sid and Jonathan, and those two very different characters sound very much the same. At times I had to pause to try to remember who was narrating. Much of the story is also presented as Sid telling the story of the past to Jonathan, and all that passive voice was a bit soporific.

So, not a book I raced through, but one I did want to finish. In the end I liked it but felt it was lacking the punch I'd hoped for. The details about Trinidad and the life of Trinidadians in Canada were great, though, and I did learn a fair amount from this novel. I just wasn't emotionally involved in it.


  1. I really like the title of this one. This novel sounds interesting, though I'm sorry to hear that you weren't emotionally involved it.

    1. Her titles are always really catchy. Loved this one too. I think because a lot of the book was told in retrospective, and in quite a passive voice, it was slow going. And perhaps I wasn't in the right contemplative state for it to really grab me. It was good -- just not one of the greats, for me.

  2. Thanks for sharing your honest thoughts about this book, Melwyk.

    1. It was interesting enough that I wanted to share it; I think the right reader would love it.


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