At the heart of Silmy Abdullah’s debut, Home of the Floating Lily is an intimate portrayal of the Bangladeshi Canadian population. Through the eyes of ordinary people, Abdullah navigates the complexities of migration and its impact on relationships, be it between a husband and a wife or between parents and children. While these stories focus primarily on displacement, culture shock, and family dynamics, they are all driven by one constant theme–the universal longing for home.
Maya Angelou, in All God’s Children Need Travelling Shoes, states, “The ache for home lives in all of us”, and Abdullah captures this perfectly in all eight of her stories. Beginning with “A Good Family”, we see a newly married Shumi struggling to adjust to her life in Toronto while her husband is largely absent because of his job. Drama unfolds in “All the Adjustments” when a man marries a woman from a different culture and brings her back to his hometown in Bangladesh. And “The Middle Path” tells the tale of a mother’s sacrifices for her two sons as they grow into adults and choose their own destinies.
My personal favourite is the titular story, nestled at the very end of the collection but by no means any less provocative. Reading almost like a novella due to its longer length, “Home of the Floating Lily” focuses on the fragility of relationships through the alternating perspectives of mother and daughter in the midst of family secrets and clashing ideals.
In many ways, these stories recall Jhumpa Lahiri’s 1999 short story collection, Interpreter of Maladies. Like Lahiri, Abdullah uses displacement and migration to reveal experiences that are at once unique to Bangladeshi Canadians but also part of a shared human experience. While the characters she created are very complex and have authentic Bangladeshi traits, they are all someone that we can relate to and in turn, sympathize with. In Tasneem from “Home of the Floating Lily,” we see our rebellious teen selves, striving to break free from our parents’ expectations and become our own person. In Shaila and Shahnaz, we see our mothers–all-loving, sacrificing, forgiving. Even secondary characters, like Syed or Rachel’s in-laws, bear resemblance to someone we know–be it our friends, cousins or relatives.
While the stories are intriguing and induce a mixed range of emotions, the constant reliance on overly dramatic plot twists as a means of moving the narrative along can get a bit tiring at times. But that’s a small flaw in an otherwise notable and ambitious short fiction debut. The stories, told in clear, lucid prose, may seem depressing to some but that is precisely the point. Each of the stories continues to linger in the reader’s mind long after the book is finished and in doing so, Abdullah is the very first to open a window to the rarely seen, rarely talked about Bangladeshi Canadian community.
Silmy Abdullah is a Bangladeshi-Canadian author and lawyer. Her legal practice focuses on the intersection of immigration, poverty, and gender-based violence. Silmy writes both fiction and non-fiction and Home of the Floating Lily is her debut collection. She lives in Toronto.
- Publisher : Dundurn Press (June 22 2021)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 216 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1459748174
- ISBN-13 : 978-1459748170
*The Miramichi Reader encourages you to shop & support independent bookstores! However, shopping at a bookstore is not always possible, so we are supplying an Amazon.ca link. Please note if you choose to purchase this book (or Kindle version) through Amazon using the link below we will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. If you cannot see the Amazon ad below (if you are using an ad blocker, for instance) here is the link: https://amzn.to/3kvyPhB