Shani Mootoo's novel Polar Vortex has been shortlisted for this year's Scotiabank Giller Prize so I was happy to be able to read it and also listen to it thanks to the free audio from NetGalley and ECW Press Audio.
This is a slow burn, character driven book. The book takes place in Ontario and is first told from the perspective of Priyah. A friend of hers from her University days is coming to visit. It's been a while since they have had contact, but when Prakash reaches out online, Priyah figures there is no harm in inviting him to come and stay with her and her wife, Alex. There is palpable tension between Alex and Priyah. Alex keeps asking Priyah about this relationship and Priyah doesn't understand why it is such a big deal.
I have to admit that at first this bugged me, especially since the couple are in their 50's; it seemed immature. But I stuck it out and I'm glad I did. The second part is told from the perspective of Priyah. This gives some insight to Alex and where she is coming from and why this relationship bugs her more than it seems is necessary. Alex implies that something more must have happened between Priyah and Prakash. Priyah ensures her that she has been honest with Prakash that she is not interested and that she is in fact, a lesbian.
When Prakash arrives, we learn some of his background. He represents the Ugandan Asian Refugee Crisis in 1972, in which Canada accepted over 6000 refugees. This is a part of Canadian history that I'm sure not all Canadians are aware of so I am glad that this is included.
The third part is told by Priyah again. In some ways, I wish it had been from Prakash's point of view, but it is when Priyah and Prakash get to spend some time together and it fills the story even more.
This is a story about complications in relationships, what we reveal and keep from others, cultural differences and how our past can catch up to us.
Bookworm Rating: 🐛🐛🐛🐛