“You know something Sammy? You is the first person in the family who so ambitious. I can’t figger out where you get it from…”Serendipity brought The Amazing Absorbing Boy by Rabindranath Maharaj into my world; it was mistakenly on our library’s list of new science fiction and fantasy. The novel is a light and touching tale of a comic book loving young man from Trinidad who finds himself living in Canada. The novel won the 2010 Trillium Book Award and the 2011 Toronto Book Award.
“…I remembered that less than two years earlier Miss Charles, our teacher at Mayaro Composite, had hinted that most orphans were doomed to become pickpockets and petty thieves…But, I thought of other orphans, Batman and Spider-Man, and most of the X-Men and the Legion who had refused to give in: each evening locating their special power and patiently understanding how to properly use it.”
Briefly, Samuel has lived in Mayaro Trinidad all his life. As the story opens, he is seventeen and his mother is dying of cancer. His father abandoned them when Sam was six years old. About nine months after his mother’s death, his father, who has been living in Canada, sends for him. This is far from a happy reunion. His father is a jerk, barely talking to Sam and wondering why he is there. Sam sleeps on a piece of foam on the floor and has to find food for himself. But, most of the story is a fascinating tale of the people that Sam meets and the places he discovers. Told from the first person perspective, Sam often uses comic books as his point of reference. Towards the end of the story, the reader understands why the book is called The Amazing Absorbing Boy.
While in some ways this is a novel about Canada told from an immigrant’s perspective, it is so much more. It is about a boy mourning the death of his mother and trying to figure out his father. It is about a boy trying to make the best of a bad situation, drawing strength from his childhood, and finally triumphing. It is about the perspective—sometimes wise, sometimes naive—from which he looks at the people around him. I liked the book because it was a bit quirky, definitely well-written, and had a nice dash of humor. It definitely is enjoyable, even for those of us who are not Canadian.