Everything Was Goodbye by Gurjinder Basran

Excellent read. I thought often of “The Jade Peony” written by Wayson Choy. Both take place in the Lower Mainland of Vancouver, B.C. and have strong female elders. The intersection of these immigrant women and their young families being raised in a Western Society and the choices the children make brings a bright light to their struggles.

Meninder, the protagonist of Basran’s story, leads a double life. She wears the garb, speaks the polite phrase of ritual but is constantly biting her tongue, chafing at the restrictions of a Punjabi community. Her story is full of colour and vibrancy and fear of discovery while she weighs the consequences of rebellious decisions versus compliance.

Her characters are rich and full, no black and white here. The reader can engage in all perspectives from the bitter striving of the matriarch of the family to the cool, detached husband and the confused and hurt lover.

Basran’s prose paints a lively picture of the family dynamics, her dialogue rings true and the pace moves quickly, keeping the reader wondering, riding the same scary wave as Meninder, through a maze of gossip, innuendo and outright oppression.

I highly recommend this novel as a must read for those who are curious about the Canadian ‘Melthing Pot’.

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