Fog by Rana Bose
Reviewed by Ian Thomas Shaw
Fog, as the title suggests, is about seeing through the mundane to discover new things, and yet never leaving the mist behind. Written with flowing lyricism, the novel reveals the deft hand of a seasoned writer in piecing together a seamless narrative. In this, Bose's decades of theatrical experience pays off. His characters are live, real and at times as confused as in a Shakespearean drama.
It's Montreal in the first decade of the new millennium, and Chuck Bhatt meets Myra Banks. One an aspiring writer who appears bogged down in eking out a meagre existence as a shipping clerk. The other a peppy, gum-smacking millennial, whose personality fissures in the false starts of their relationship. A dental office is the first backdrop for their complicity. Myra is the receptionist, Chuck the patient and the dentist, Dr. Roberge, a conspirator in the downing of a small plane over Trois-Pistoles, Quebec. A convenient way to get Roberge's wife, a passenger on the plane, out of the way so he can marry his mega-rich mistress, or at least that is the conspiracy theory that snares Chuck and Myra. The delivery, years before, of a suspicious parcel by a femme fatale to Chuck at his shipping company is the clue to this conspiracy, and Chuck and Myra just have to piece together the rest. But before he can get to the bottom of things, Chuck is brutalized during a botched burglary of his apartment.
While the murder theme provides a comfortable thread to Bose's narrative, the real pleasure comes from the characters drifting in and out of the Mile-End/St. Lawrence Street neighbourhood in Montreal. There is a sense of community in Fog that stimulates the imagination and soothingly draws in the readers. And not surprisingly, Bose manages to instill in the readers a genuine sense of affection for many of the characters in his novel.
The author also does not pass on scoring a few political points in the story, particularly in criticizing western involvement in the Afghanistan war. While Bose stretches credibility in the passages in Afghanistan, overall there is a quiet realism in his narrative.
Rana Bose is the author of two other novels and eleven plays and the founding editor the on-line cultural review Montreal Serai. These are significant accomplishments, but for my money, Fog is his crowning achievement.
Fog is published by Baraka Books.