Saga Boy: Family, Secrets, Loss, and the Search for Self.
-All I wanted was a home. For the ground to stop shifting beneath my feet. For something, anything, to stay the same long enough for me to feel rooted- Tony.
That quote sums up what Tony grew up wanting, what he needed to secure his emotional, mental, and physical well-being. The writing is simple yet poignant with a certain lyricism that is wholly Caribbean when we got it.
Downing writes with an almost brash quality. The prose is crisp and no-nonsense even when sharing trauma, he approaches it with the vulnerability and steel that can be found existing dually in children.
But when he speaks of his grandmother, there is beauty and love and poetry in the way he depicts her strength and faith and eventually her encroaching weakness. His recollection of his childhood in Trinidad is lush with descriptions of friends, land, rivalry, mischief, faith, and yearning.
However when he moves to Canada, everything is different: he is always an oddity and so seeks acceptance, feeling a lack because there is no familiarity and no one tries to ease his way into this new social construct.
I was struck by Downing's intuition and survival instincts, even when he is the smallest person in the room, which is often, he is always aware and watchful, almost as if he is reading, absorbing the facets of the situation, learning, so that he is then able to transform what he has learned into something beneficial.
He also writes with an awareness that the region's own will recognize when it comes to the influence and constructed models left behind and instituted by our former colonizers. The language, schooling, religion, and social behaviours and mores.
As he grows older, he is able to identify the dysfunction and failure of his parents to provide with the stability and love that would have enabled him to have come into himself sooner and with fortitude. He is then able to take the steps towards confronting that failure and thus move towards healing, which is a lifelong activity.
The pace of the storytelling falls off in the latter third of the book, but Downing's life story of losing, searching, finding, and accepting himself is one that should be read.