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Cereus Blooms at Night Paperback – October 27, 2009


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press; First Trade Paper Edition edition (October 27, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802144624
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802144621
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #354,858 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

There is much to admire about Shani Mootoo's first novel, Cereus Blooms at Night. In telling the tale of Mala Ramchandin, her sister, Asha, her childhood sweetheart Ambrose "Boyie" Mohanty, and the other inhabitants of the fictional Caribbean island of Lantanacamara, Mootoo has created a cast of remarkable characters capable of charming the reader. Narrated in part by Tyler, a young male nurse at a home for the elderly, Cereus begins with Mala's admission to the alms house in Paradise--the main city on Lantanacamara--under a cloud of mystery. The old lady won't speak and is suspected of a multitude of crimes, causing the head nurse of the home to keep her in restraints. Only Tyler is willing to care for her; it isn't long before Tyler, an outcast in Paradise because of his sexual orientation, and Mala, a pariah for other reasons, develop an unusual friendship.

For the first half of the book, Mootoo moves easily between Tyler's narrative and a third-person account of Mala's life as a child. The chapters covering the adoption of Mala's father, Chandin Ramchandin, by a white missionary and his wife and Chandin's obsession with his foster sister, Lavinia, offer a telling perspective on race and colonialism; later chapters detailing Chandin's descent into alcoholism, madness, and child abuse are occasionally overwrought, but the strong, child's-eye point of view of young Mala keeps the novel grounded. The second half of Cereus abandons both Tyler and the omniscient narrator, choosing to focus, instead, on Otoh Mohanty, the son of Mala's childhood friend, Boyie. Here Mootoo also introduces, for the first time, elements of the fantastic: a girl who "wills" herself to become a boy; a man who sleeps for weeks at a time, only waking one day each month; a mysterious, locked room that holds a horrifying secret. The result is pure melodrama wrapped up in lovely prose.

Even though the last half of the book seems too suddenly freighted towards the magical and improbable, and the happy ending is a trifle too contrived, Cereus Blooms at Night showcases Shani Mootoo's impressive mastery of language. And in Mala Ramchandin, she has created a tough and tender heroine who commands the reader's interest and sympathy from first page to last. --Alix Wilber --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

The fecund and fertile cycles of Caribbean life pervade this powerful first novel from Mootoo (Out on Main Street), who invokes all the senses, especially sight and smell, to portray the town of Paradise on the fictional island of Lantanacamara. When Mala Ramchandin, the town madwoman and a rumored murderess, checks into the Paradise Alms Hotel, the only nurse compassionate enough to properly care for her is Tyler, the young narrator of the tale. As a gay man who has always been considered an oddity on the island, he forms an outsider's friendship with Mala. While Tyler slowly gains Mala's trust, readers more clearly see the mosaic that makes up Mala's sad, enigmatic life and come to understand her strange "uncivilized" habits as a form of self-preservation against cruelties endured, including her mother's abandonment, the incestuous relations forced on her by her father and, most haunting of all, the loss (via emigration) of her beloved younger sister. Tyler himself becomes more complex as he reflects on his sexuality. His self-discovery and the secrets of Mala's past might in other hands have become the stuff of melodrama, but Mootoo puts this material to much finer use in a narrative reminiscent of Maryse Conde's work. The seamless plot structure builds to a macabre, satisfying climax and to equally satisfying portraits of two memorable, complex characters against a fascinating, sensuously rendered background. (Sept.) FYI: Cereus Blooms at Night was a finalist for the 1997 Giller Prize, the Chapters/Books in Canada First Novel Award and the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize. One of Mootoo's paintings appears on the cover; she has exhibited her work internationally. She is also a filmmaker.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

This book was ordered as part of a bundle of textbooks needed for the Spring 2013 semester.
John
Perhaps the book resonates with my own past a bit or perhaps it is just one hell of a well written book.
Globewriter
Mootoo's bravery and unabashed honesty were among just a few of the admirable qualities of this book.
Fitzgerald Fan

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Globewriter on November 23, 2004
Format: Paperback
I think I must have read this book about 3 times and each time it weaves a magical web in my mind that takes days to clear. Ms Mootoo manages to take the minutae of life in a time gone by and make them real. Perhaps the book resonates with my own past a bit or perhaps it is just one hell of a well written book. I suspect it both.

Books are, obviously, a matter of personal taste and I know people ( who I bought copies for) who hate this book. I take issue with the reviewer who compares it to The Color Purple though. As far as I know the human condition is sadly limited to a few experiences. One might as well say that any book that writes about falling in and out of love is plagiarizing another. I suspect the only problem with Cereus is that it is such an intimate book..written from such a particular perspective about a particular place that it may not resound with all readers.

One of my friends in Trinidad who grew up in great poverty says that the book takes him back to his childhood and the little comfort corner in his mother's shed - I couldn;t put it better.

I woul also suggest getting her book of poetry..well worth it.

As an Irish born, half-Trinidadian Canadian I love this book....I hope that one day I will have the pleasure of meeting the author.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Shampoo Love on March 16, 2000
Format: Paperback
I agree that this book follows the same theme and characters as the Color Purple; however, I think the interesting characters, (especially the narrator) as well as the well imagined island country make up for the lack of originality. I don't know about other people who've read this book, but I thought the Nurse was a great narrator. I haven't come across such a sensitive and observant character in a long time. Also, the issue of incest and sisterhood is so universal that if it does merge with other stories, I don't think that it automatically scuffs off of the Color Purple. If one analyzes literature, most every theme merges together and gets recycled. I enjoyed this book--especially the way it took me away to another time and place.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 6, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This story unfolds in many directions and at many levels and provides a creative challenge to the reader to maintain a clear understanding of the various themes. At times a love story, and other times a exploration of sexuality and pedophilia and violence, the book revolves around the history of one woman whom many around her believe mad. The story is set on a fictional tropical island and narrated by a gay male nurse who cares for the woman as an inmate in an alms house. The woman's story unfolds as do the beautiful and powerfully scented Cereus blooms which the author skillfully blends into the evocative and sensual backdrop of the story.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Fitzgerald Fan VINE VOICE on November 7, 2001
Format: Paperback
This book was one of the few out of the many that I've read that is truly charming and exquisite. Mootoo's bravery and unabashed honesty were among just a few of the admirable qualities of this book. I had trouble putting it down at night, even when I had to be up in a few short hours. The characters are crystal-clear and the environment she paints is inspiring to anyone who wishes to write a novel someday. While the book had its heart wrenching moments, it was also full of triumph. Mala Ramchandin (the main character)has a story so rich in detail that you will feel the struggle every step of the way. This novel shines light on every facet of human emotion and it comes highly recommended!
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By K. Wong on May 15, 2006
Format: Paperback
My English professor assigned this novel for class during my freshman year of college. Although I started it grudgingly, I eventually fell in love with the world Shani Mootoo created for this novel. I'm sorry to say that I've forgotten much of the plot and a few of the characters too, but the sights and smells of that beautiful place stick with me even today. Even as I sat at my desk reading this book, I felt as if I'd lived a lifetime on that island. 'Cereus Blooms at Night' is a great story and well worth picking up.

And for any anime fans reading this- I'll never forget watching "Wolf's Rain" and immediately identifying the lunar flowers as night-blooming cereus--something I knew only because I'd read this novel a year before I watched the series.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 20, 1998
Format: Paperback
If you are a High School student read this book carefully because when it comes time to write that essay good luck on finding one concrete line of thought to follow. There is so much going on in this book, Mala and her many problems, the book jumps around a lot, I reread the first half of the book and got a better understanding of the story by doing so. This book is deep and passionate with lots of groundbreaking ideas. Take your time reading this book 'cause if you just rush through it your gonna miss the main ideas. Ciao!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By "berenjena" on March 24, 1999
Format: Hardcover
In this novel the characters are not what they appear at first glance, a male nurse has sexual issues to deal with, another character wills herself to be a man, and the main protagonist is sexually abused by her father. The novel is very intricate and yet simple in its ability to make us look within ourselves for the strenght to endure life's hardships and to also downplay the effect of other's criticisms of how we have chosen to live.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A voice screams out at you, The momentary embrace of the eyes in a far away camera glance. A dismissal of worth. The total subjugation and repression felt by women of the post-colonial world is not without its listeners. Titsi Dangerembga's "Nervous Conditions"(NC) is the story of a determined young girl who manuevers both patriarchal and Imperial obstacles to obtain an ambigous future. Offering an answer to the question of how a person who is "double colonized"(233pc) can break free from the restraints of both neo-colonial and cultural barriers NC never the less leaves for the reader the issues of western education and the judeo-catholic religion as unresolved mechanisms of future restraints in its character's lives." When Nervous Conditions was published in 1988, it added to the growing corpus of women's writing in Zimbabwe."(debunk1) Explaining the controlling theme of the novel Kwame Appiah writes in the introduction,"while not specifically addressed to a western readership, the problems of racial and gender equity the text raises are not in any way unfamiliar to us."(NCxi)
Both Shani Mootoo's " Cereus Blooms at Midnight"(CBAM) published in 1996 and Arundhati Roy's "God of Small Things"(GOST) published in 1997 explore the theme of characters seeking to define themselves outside the traditional patterns of repression encountered universally by women in post-colonial society. This striking similiarity in the subject and themes of NC,CBAM and GOST makes for an interesting comparison.
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