Project Bookmark Canada: Love Enough by Dionne Brand (2014)

Dionne Brand’s Love Enough is the 22nd Bookmark on the CanLit Trail.

I’m happy that Dionne Brand has a Bookmark, and I’m happy that I have finally read one of her books. “Brand is our great observer – of actions, of emotions, of the little things that often go unnoticed but can mean the turn of a day for us all.”

Love Enough is a book about the way people’s lives play out and intersect, knowingly or not. In Dionne Brand’s poetic prose, the characters in this book offer us differing perspectives on the same city as they strive to find their own way through it.

You never know who you’ll meet in this city. Apart from the constant construction and reconstruction occasioned by winter, there are the appearances and disappearances of people. One could, as is often the case, disappear into someone else. One could become totally invisible.

June is a social worker who lives her life passionately and by her own rules. She is capable of seeing beauty where others may not. “She is not the type who is happy the way other people are happy.” But now, in middle-age, she is trying to figure out this love thing.

She wants to get out of her own head, a stoop from which she can pick a fight with the most benevolent human being in the world. Even when the sky is lilac or violet and even if two butterflies stop her day with their urgent life, she hovers on this stoop like a preying mantis, looking harmless but not at all harmless. Her stick of a body is deceptive. Her poised look, her brain in compressed rage – all the reedy details of a life lived cautiously and suspiciously yet on the verge of weeping at small beautiful occurrences.

Yes, June collects sadness. What would happen if no one remembered sadness? We’d walk around mutilated and mutilating and not know how we got there or have any remorse.

Lia recounts her life as the daughter of Mercede, a hard woman to love. She and her brother, Ghost, react differently to their upbringing – Lia leaves as soon as she can, finding jobs to support herself. Ghost sticks around, fights with his mother, gets into trouble.

Mercede’s love was exhausting because it needed love back constantly. Lia and Germain were children and didn’t always know how to love back. They simply knew how to love, and at times they they simply wanted to run or play and have love waiting for them when they returned. Mercede’s love was a burning, wanting love. Mercede’s love could not hold out against her panic of never being loved enough.

Bedri is running away from an act of violence he was involved in, suddenly scared and alone. What would his father think? What is he going to do now? “His family was afraid of him… and that made him sad and desperate.

Da’uud is worried about his son, Bedri. He came to this country so that his family could have a better, safer life. He made sacrifices, he works long hours as a cab driver, spending more time with strangers than with his own family. “The day he stepped into this cab it ceased to matter who he was.

There is nothing universal or timeless about this love business… It is hard if you really want to do it right.

A good line: “Cutting down the belly of the city, the Don Valley Parkway is a sticky bituminous river; its narrow, slick lanes are carnivorous.”

Further Reading:

You can find the passage used by Project Bookmark Canada here.

Review at Buried in Print: “It is a mass of contradictions (as is love, itself): beautifully and hauntingly expressed.”

Review at the Quill & Quire: “Brand’s novel doesn’t seek to punish the wrongs committed in the name of love and lust. Rather, it moves its characters through its urban setting as a means of shedding light on the dark and desolate aspects of life.”

Review at The Globe & Mail: “The inner turmoil of Brand’s characters maps their city’s crisis of identity – beauty and pain constantly battling for ascendancy...”

Dionne Brand has a discussion about “diversity” with a reporter at the Globe & Mail: “Brand isn’t interested in “corporate conversations” about diversity and inclusion. (“Inclusion – I despise that word.”) Brand is trying to imagine an entirely new world, where freedom is real: “Fundamental change is what I’m after – a deep sense of being human.””

20 thoughts on “Project Bookmark Canada: Love Enough by Dionne Brand (2014)

  1. The Cue Card says:

    Which city does this story take place in? just wondering thanks. I like the idea of intersecting characters in a place

  2. buriedinprint says:

    Ah, I remember taking SO many quotes from this read. It felt like I spent as much time scribbling out memorable passages as I spent actually reading the book (it’s not really that long, even though there’s a lot of story inside). My favourite of hers, though, is What We All Want. Oh, I dunno, now that i say that, I am reminded that I would like to reread At the Full and Change of the Moon, because that was my first of her books, and it was the one that landed her on my MustReadEverything list, so I must have loved it pretty hard. So pleased you enjoyed it too. And here’s to the bookmarks, ever increasing our reading lists!

    • Naomi says:

      I felt the same way while reading this – that I was spending just as much time taking notes as reading!

      Have you ever read In Another Place, Not Here? That’s the one I have on my shelf.

      • buriedinprint says:

        Yes, I really like that one too. And it’s very accessible. I was wondering, recently, if it might be the best place to begin with her work, but it’s been so long since i read it that I can’t say for sure. My review is here if you’re curious (no spoilers, of course).

  3. wadholloway says:

    Love the Bookmarks idea (though the Project Bookmark website didn’t have a lot of info). I could imagine spending my life putting little markers to say such and such a book was set here. I used my one European holiday to see Maigret’s Paris, Hydra for Australian writers Charmian Clift and George Johnston, and Huesca, Spain for George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia.

    • Naomi says:

      I would expect nothing less of your trip to Europe! Visiting literary sites is pretty much the same as visiting the Bookmarks, except the Bookmarks give you a passage from the book that takes place in the spot where you’re standing. Which is pretty cool.

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