It is the death of her cousin Chevy that brings Cassandra from London back to Toronto where her family is based after having left Trinidad. But she not only returns to the funeral but to a whole history of her family that suddenly pops up again. Stories she had forgotten but now remembers, things which have always been unsaid despite that fact that everybody knew them and secrets that now surface in the big house in Florence Street where the tension is growing day by day. The sisters and aunts find themselves in an exceptional emotional state that cracks open unhealed wounds which add to the ones that have come with the death of Chevy.
Sophie Jai was herself born in Trinidad just like her protagonist and grew up in Toronto, “Wild Fires” is her first novel and was published in 2021. It centres around a family in grief, but also a family between two countries and also between the past and the present and things that have never been addressed between the members. Having been away for some time allows Cassandra a role a bit of an outsider and she sees things of her family she has never understood.
The author wonderfully interweaves the present story of the family gathering at the Toronto home to mourn the loss and Cassandra’s childhood recollections and well-known family stories. Thus, we get to know the deceased and his role in the family web. Like Chevy’s story, also the aspects that link but also separate the generations of sisters are uncovered thus exposing long avoided conflicts.
The novel raises the questions if you can ever flee from the family bonds and how to deal with what happened in the past and has never openly be spoken out loud and discussed. Sophie Jai finds the perfect words to express the nuances in the atmosphere and paces the plot according to the characters’ increasingly conflicting mood.
I liked how the characters and their story unfolds, yet, I would have preferred a more accelerated pace and at the beginning, I struggled to understand the connection between them which was a bit confusing.