Reading guide for Brother by David Chariandy

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by David Chariandy

Brother by David Chariandy X
Brother by David Chariandy
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  • First Published:
    Jul 2018, 192 pages

    Nov 2019, 192 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Lisa Butts
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Reading Guide Questions Print Excerpt

Please be aware that this discussion guide will contain spoilers!

  1. Why does Chariandy begin Brother with the anecdote about the lookout? How do the lessons about climbing and memory outlined in this section come into play elsewhere in the novel?
  2. Did you enjoy Chariandy's narrative technique of alternating between a present-day story and flashbacks? What is the effect of telling the story in this style?
  3. How does Michael and Francis's relationship as brothers evolve over the course of the events depicted in Brother? Of the flashbacks to their childhood, which event(s) have the biggest impact on their relationship and why?
  4. What does the implied relationship between Francis and Jelly tell us about each of their characters as individuals? Why do you think Chariandy presents their relationship in the subtle way he does?
  5. Why is Michael reluctant to let Aisha organize a gathering for Ruth? When he comes home and discovers a "crowd of strangers" in his house, why does he have such a negative response? Do you think his actions are appropriate, or should he have behaved differently?
  6. How do Michael's feelings towards Aisha change over the course of the novel, both in the present-day story and in flashbacks? Discuss the events that precipitate the shifts in his feelings and why.
  7. Michael mentions the notion of "complicated grief" in relation to his mother. Based on what we know about Ruth and her relationship with her sons, what is keeping her "mired in mourning," as Michael puts it, over losing Francis?
  8. Brother takes place in Canada. Do you think the story is specific to the setting, or is it more universal? Why or why not?
  9. How does the idea of "home" and its connotations factor into Brother? Discuss the concept of "home" in its various iterations as viewed by Michael, Francis, Ruth, and Aisha.
  10. Discuss Michael's recollections of their family trip to Trinidad and Tobago. What do we learn about Ruth through this flashback? What do you think Chariandy is attempting to say about the immigrant experience?
  11. What is your interpretation of the man in the tan suit whom Michael sees at Francis's funeral?
  12. Discuss the role of music in Brother. Does it offer escape, or a sense of belonging, or something else entirely?
  13. Do you think Ruth was a good mother to Michael and Francis while they were growing up? Why or why not? How do Ruth's attitudes and aspirations differ from those of her sons? When in the novel do parents and children appear distant from each other, and when do they connect?
  14. Why do you think Ruth has a breakdown towards the end of the novel? How does this alter her and Michael's relationship, and what effect does it have on her healing process?
  15. Discuss Francis's interaction with the police immediately before he gets shot. Could the tragedy have been prevented? Are there events or interactions earlier in the novel that you think may have contributed to Francis's refusal to sit down when the officer asks him to? If so, what and how?
  16. In addition to some instances of overt racism, Michael and Francis each encounter subtle prejudices throughout the novel. Give examples of this. Do you think the overt racism or the subtle prejudice has more of a negative impact on them? Why?

Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Bloomsbury USA. Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.

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