Six Metres of Pavement

Six Metres of Pavement


Six Metres of Pavement by Farzana Doctor 

2011, paperback


“Ismail Boxwala, an ultimately good man haunted by a horrible mistake, provides the focal point of Doctor’s moving second novel in which she examines with crystalline clarity the plight of this gentle, middle-aged Indian immigrant living in Toronto. Twenty years ago, Boxwala accidentally left his baby locked in his car, resulting in her death. The tragedy destroys his marriage and induces a long struggle with drink; still, Ismail keeps his job and home and eventually finds himself drawn to Celia Sousa, a 50-year-old Portuguese widow, left penniless by her gambling-addict husband, and currently living with her daughter on Ismail’s street. Doctor (Stealing Nasreen) charts the growing heat between Ismail and Celia and weaves in a sweet secondary story about Ismail’s fatherly friendship with Fatima Khan, a bisexual Indian college student. Doctor also folds the past into the present throughout, allowing the dead to haunt the living and providing both a realistic portrayal of suffering and a paean to second chances.”
- Publisher's Weekly

“A popular creative writing prompt is to imagine two people who would never speak to each other, trapped in an elevator together. What would they talk about? Would they be able to get along? Divorced transportation engineer Ismail Boxwala and the queer twenty-something Fatima Khan are two such people whose paths would never cross, but their unlikely friendship becomes the linchpin of Farzana Doctor’s second novel, Six Metres of Pavement (Dundurn Press), where love and family become redefined when the characters choose to help each other. And while the dubious pair would be enough to sustain a novel (I was often reminded of Stoner & Spaz, Ron Koertge’s YA novel about a nerd with Cerebral Palsy befriending a promiscuous drug addict), Doctor weaves a cast of characters to accompany them, including Celia, the Portuguese-Canadian widow who folds herself into Ismail and Fatima’s world. It’s a compelling situation which could become clumsy and forced, but is instead a satisfying portrait of urban life with rich attention paid to culture, humor and humanity.”

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Recommended by Michael E.