Cereus Blooms at Night - Shani Mootoo
I read this book over the course of about three days. The generally smoothly written story, in spite of some problems of organization which betray a first novel, drew me through it. In spite of some terrible scenes of family violence (I admit that sometimes I skimmed this) it is not a depressing story at all. Mootoo does seem to to hesitate a bit awkwardly between realism and the fanciful, both in the depiction of the island of Lantanacamara and in the lives of her characters.

Although I liked Tyler (whose slightly naive narrative style the author maintains successfully for the most part, though not so much in the parts narrating the backstory of other characters) and found Mala admirably tough (the depiction of her surviving in her wild garden and successfully battling her mental pain during that time is great), the book really came alive for me whenever Ambrose Mohanty appeared on the page. When he came back from studying abroad, speaking in elaborate sentences full of ideas, it was delightful. His study of entomology provides one of the central metaphors of the novel. Insects recur frequently; and Ambrose discourses on some of their metaphorical significance. What a shame that he then spent most of his life asleep! The reason I find this character so appealing is that he is very like me -- extremely like, in fact, from his timid childhood to his big ideas to his passivity and indecisiveness.

It is also, at times, a very romantic novel. The pull of love can be as intoxicating as the perfume of a cereus blossom calling to its moth suitors. And, although not all possibilities come to pass as they should, the end of the novel still left me satisfied.