Ismail Boxwala is the protagonist of Six Metres of Pavement, a book about a father whose reputation has been tarnished by a terrible mistake he made two decades ago after leaving his child in the backseat of his car. This novel is about Ismail’s life after his daughter died tragically and how her death affected him. Ismail’s life changes when he meets two women.
Fatima is a girl, barely 20 years old, thrown out of her parents’ home solely because she is bisexual. Celia, Ismail’s Portuguese next-door neighbour, recently moved into her daughter’s home across from the Ismails.
The second novel by Farzana Doctor is captivating. She’s tackled major subjects, a complex plot, and varied characters. Her goal is noble: to offer her audience a few realities on love and tragedy. The writer’s simplistic translation of addiction and people’s recovery from trauma and tragedy is, unfortunately, clichéd and, more disconcertingly, false.
After nearly a year of spying on one another, Ismail and Celia’s difficulties start to fade away when they connect. Celia ditches her mourning robe in favour of sultry hues and starts looking past the delusions she’s been experiencing about her deceased husband. Ismail also quits going to his neighbourhood bar. Along with Celia and Ismail’s blossoming relationship, Ismail and Fatima, a young LGBT activist whose parents were kicked out of their home, form a bond. Fatima is almost the same age as Ismail’s late daughter, and she forces him to confront his grief and act on his affections for Celia. She also gets his assistance in persuading her parents to accept her sexuality. Ismail’s apprehension about getting involved in the matter, and his discomfort when he ultimately does, are amusing. When he catches Fatima and her girlfriend making out, he initially feels embarrassed. Later on, he realises that he shouldn’t be and that two women making out is totally natural.
Ismail and Celia become Fatima’s surrogate parents. Ismail heroically allows her to move into his home. At the novel’s heart is observing the three oddities grow into their own beautiful family, putting aside stereotypes and prejudices in pursuit of service and love. The emotional experiences of the characters are all well-written: Celia’s despair, a culturally defined spiritual and mental experience, and Ismail’s making peace with his past and appreciating himself–and others–again.
Fatima’s youth, confidence in Ismail, and dedication to broadening other people’s eyes make the well-told story sparkle. The dialogue between her and Ismail is easy to read when she talks about radical politics and queer theory, and he, in turn, questions her so he can better understand her turmoil, ideals, and aspirations.
You can see from the doctor’s prose that she’s got knowledge about the issues included in the novel, and as a result, everyone and everything is well-represented. The novel’s pacing is excellent, keeping the reader engaged without feeling rushed.
This book is well written, leaving readers feeling motivated and wanting more. Get your own copy from Amazon.