Told from the revolving perspectives of a mother, a father, a son, and their neighbour, Anne Hébert's A Suit of Light illuminates how the members of a family can coexist while each struggles alone with unspoken desires. The slim novel, Hébert's last before her death in 2000, follows the lives of a Spanish immigrant family living in near squalour in Paris. The mother, Rose-Alba Almevida, works as a concierge, attending to the needs of her building's wealthy inhabitants while secretly longing for a life of splendour of her own, where she's "as elegant as Diana was with Dodi Fayed, cruising on a yacht." Meanwhile, her son Miguel, a delicate boy who likes to imagine himself a girl, tries to avoid the notice of his macho father, Pedro, who toils as a construction worker, hoping to save enough money to enable the family to return to Spain.
Miguel's desires surface when he meets Jean-Ephrem de la Tour, a larger-than-life black dancer at a nightclub who pulls him into a world of unsheathed emotion, with Rosa in tow. While Miguel becomes mesmerized by Jean-Ephrem, his mother becomes intoxicated with his lifestyle, leading them into a spiral of self-destruction. The novel's sparse sections, each a monologue recounted by a different character, are never longer than three pages. Hébert--who won three Governor General's Awards and whose previous novel, Am I Disturbing You? was shortlisted for the Giller Prize--uses carefully chosen words to paint a crystal-clear portrait of a struggling immigrant family swallowed up by their desires. --Leah Eichler [via]