When Frankie leaves Vancouver, leaves the west coast of Canada, he lodges with the Fujimotos in Toronto but, soon, he is fetching other new arrivals and bringing them back like a tour guide (and, in time, like the city is his home). And, throughout, the growth of the city parallels Frankie’s dreams and ambitions.
The construction of the subway also offers a startling contrast to the “floating city”, one group tunnelling downward – a miraculous feat in its own way – and another embodying a sense of upwardness. (Scenes like these also demonstrate how suitable the novel’s nomination for this year’s Toronto Book Award truly is.)
“Cut and cover, cut and cover: that was the method. Below and out of sight, the rest of the work continued. Eight-car trains would deliver passengers from northern Toronto all the way down to Union Station at twenty miles per hour from morning to night. Like the train that had brought him here, tunnelling through the mountains, through darkness and out into light, only stopping at station after station instead of town after town.”
The emphasis on communities small and large (households and social groups) simmers beneath the story, all the way through, sounding a tone even as the workers’ tools reverberate.
He smelled Hannah’s lavender perfume in his dreams, and rolled a pebble the shape of Bucky’s tetrahedron, nature’s building block, between his fingers. He woke with a start. Home, he thought, when he emerged onto Front Street with the solid edifice of Union Station behind him and the towering Bank of Commerce ahead. He held his arms out, closed his eyes, and imagined the tilting of the Earth on its axis as it spun, the slight pressure at the side of his one foot. Or maybe it was just the rumble of the night workers digging out the subway tunnel below.
Home is where we dig, where we float, where we struggle and overcome.
Have you met a historical figure in fiction lately?