Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

What Belongs

Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

What Belongs

Article excerpt

F.B. André, What Belongs (Vancouver: Ronsdale Press, 2007), 160pp. Paper. $19.95. ISBN 978-1-55380-044-6.

In What Belongs, his second collection of short stories, F.B. André displays his mature gift of storytelling, leading the reader to do temporal and spatial jumpings and to peek at the moments of epiphany in his characters when they are struggling to come to terms with events that unsettle their lives. Ordinary as they may appear, the disillusion, frustration and disappointment they have gone through trigger sympathetic and even empathetic responses in the reader while their small triumphs cannot fail to bring a smile. When reflecting human frailty, André does not forget to lighten the atmosphere with some humour. In 'Fifteen Fingers', a variety of parties scrambling for the unpublished papers of a late prestigious mathematician are eager to decode what he means by 'fifteen fingers', which triggers off all his work. The source of his inspiration turns out to be a joke played by his first love: when playing the piano, you need fifteen fingers for some difficult pieces. The mystery that builds up throughout the story is unravelled in an entirely unexpected manner at the end.

F.B. André is not oblivious to the Canadian ideal of multiculturalism. Many of his stories portray encounters between individuals of different cultures and races, but they are deployed to foreground the common human experience rather than to essentialise cultural or racial differences. And it is through these encounters that André explores what it means to belong. In the title story, 'What Belongs', F.B. André moves between different points in time and place, interweaving the depiction of Governor James Douglas's decision to invite some 600 Afro-Americans to British Columbia in 1858 with a contemporary researcher's attempt to retrace the route taken by the settlers. …

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