"The Amazing Absorbing Boy has its amazing moments: Maharaj is an often funny, sharply observant stylist"-Calgary Herald. "To those long-established metaphors of immigration identity, the patchwork quilt and the melting pot, we have now to add the comic book...Sharply observed and entertaining....[A] rich exploration of the immigrant psycho-drama of attraction and repulsion, welcome and paranoia, perception and misunderstanding"-Toronto Star.
"An exhilarating interpretation of immigrant experience....Maharaj superbly articulates the longing for home, on the one hand, and the dream of success in Cana-da on the other"-The Globe and Mail. Rabindranath Maharaj is the author of three previous novels. A Perfect Pledge was a finalist for the Regional Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Best Book and the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize.
The Lagahoo's Apprentice was a Globe and Mail and Toronto Star notable book of the year. His Homer in Flight was nominated for the Chapters/Books in Canada First Novel Award. The Book of Ifs and Buts and The Interloper were nominated for a Regional Commonwealth Prize for Best First Book.
Maharaj's latest publication is The Amazing Absorbing Boy, published in Canada by Vintage Canada, a division of Random House of Canada Ltd, Toronto, in 2011. Maharaj, called Robin by his youthful friends of Tableland in south-west Trinidad, received his early education at the Robert Village Hindu School which is owned and managed by the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha Education Board.
Robin's father is a well-known educator and community worker and the name Chandrieka Maharaj is a respected name in the scattered districts of Tableland. The entire Maharaj family is also anchored in the religious and cultural lives of the communities and the one Hindu temple of the Naparima/Mayaro Road has been fully supported and financed by the Maharaj family.
Robin's paternal uncle (kaka) was the recently deceased Prof Harry Maharaj, a well-known psychiatrist at the University of the West Indies with a private practice in the Chaguanas area. Other members of the family are intellectually highly endowed in their own right and Robin was fortunate to have emerged from such a family background.
His latest novel is set in the Mayaro district, which is not too far from Robin's own village in Tableland. He uses many local names and Trinidadian expressions even in his opening chapter, which he describes as "The Nowhereian." He writes:
"When my mother died four months after my sixteenth birthday, I felt I had already received glimpses of all that would follow. Like if I was once again sitting on a dusty, silvery asteroid and could see through lanes of swirling space dust and dark, puffed-up clouds, right through the samaan tree in our front yard where the shadows of our Mayaro neighbours cast a crooked picket fence on the coffin.
"I could even make out Uncle Boysie still looking funny in his black suit, staring again at the road as if in this replay my father would suddenly appear in a big puff of sulphurous smoke. But my father was not Nightcrawler the teleporter, and I was not Doctor Manhattan who could see into the future.
"Yet, until that morning in June when her life passed away and Uncle Boysie held my hand and pulled me out of the house-as if it was suddenly a dangerous place-I always expected my mother to recover. I say this even though she had been sick for the last four months with her wavy hair falling out so that instead of looking prettier than all the Mayaro wom-en, she began to resemble the caged monkey inside Lighthouse rumshop.
"I held on to this faith even when she returned from the clinic in Rio Claro walking so tiredly that I had to support her into the house; when a few of the neighbours began whispering nonsense about obeah and maljeaux; when we both moved in with Uncle Boysie and he began to treat me more kindly than any time before.
"I think my mother was responsible for these thoughts because three weeks before she died, we returned to our house on Church Street, just a quarter mile from the beach. I was relieved and felt that everything would soon get back to normal. She would stop vomiting and become stronger and the kitchen would once more smell of shadow-beni, ripe plantain and cassava pone. And the dripping sink would sound like faraway cymbals for the high-pitched Bollywood songs she was always humming.
"I was convinced of her recovery when, during those three weeks, she began dressing up in fancy clothes I had never seen before. Each afternoon when I returned from the Mayaro Com- posite School, I saw her in a new and unfamiliar dress. They looked expensive, with sashes, embroidered collars, and frilly hems. She appeared paler too, though whether this was from the powder on her face or from her sickness I could not say."
Maharaj will be specially honoured by the Maha Sabha on May 25 at this year's Annual Indian Arrival Dinner at the Crowne Plaza.
• Satnarayan Maharaj is the secretary general of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha