"A searing and beautiful novel." --Lawrence Hill, author of The Book of Negroes and The Illegal
Featured on CBC's "30 books to read now"
A portrait of a Muslim family--from the heady days in Uganda to hard times in a new country, and the tragic accident that forces them to confront the ghosts of the past
It's 1998. And Mansoor Visram has lived in Canada for 25 years, ever since dictator Idi Amin expelled South Asians from Uganda. As a refugee with a wife and child, Mansoor has tried his best to recreate the life they once had, but starting over in Canada has been much harder than he expected. He's worked as a used car salesman, as a gas station attendant, and now he runs a small dry cleaner in suburban Calgary. But he's hatching plans for a father and son empire that will bring back the wealth and status the Visrams enjoyed in Uganda. The problem is, his son Ashif does not share his dreams, and he's moved across the country to get away from his father. He's a rising star at a multi-national corporation in Toronto, on the cusp of a life-changing promotion, but he can't seem to forget his girlfriend from long ago. Mansoor's wife, Layla, has spent the past decade running her own home cooking business and trying to hold her family together. But Ashif rarely comes home to visit and Mansoor's pride has almost ruined their marriage. As the fissures that began generations ago--and continents away--reappear, Mansoor, Ashif, and Layla drift further and further apart.
On the Night of Power, a night during Ramadan when fates are decided for the next year, a terrible accident occurs. Will the Visrams survive this latest tragedy?
Night of Power is a heart-wrenching story of a family in crisis. Gripping and unforgettable, Anar Ali's debut novel vividly illuminates the injustices of displacement and the nuances of identity--of losing a home and coming home again.
About the author
ANAR ALI's short story collection, Baby Khaki's Wings, was a finalist for the Commonwealth Writer's Prize, the Trillium Book Award, and the Danuta Gleed Literary Prize. She is a screenwriter and works in film and television, most recently, for a new medical drama from CTV/NBCUniversal. Ali lives in Toronto.
Excerpt: Night of Power: A Novel (by (author) Anar Ali)
Mansoor Visram wakes to a fluting sound, a distant melody like a muezzin’s call. He half-opens his eyes. Dark fields extend to the horizon and merge seamlessly with the night sky. A perfect circle. The prairie hills are massive frozen waves. He feels something pecking at his feet. He lifts his head. A small domed shape bobs up and down at his feet, hammering at his icy body. The bird flies up and hovers over his chest. Her body is brilliant blue; her crown golden. Her breast is plump and glazed with rhinestone tassels instead of feathers. Mansoor is amazed that she can fly. He swipes the air and tries to catch her, but she flies up and out of reach. He plants his hands on the snow and struggles to stand, his veins a map of frozen rivers. The bird flies ahead of him and waits, like a siren willing him forward. A few steps and he falls to his knees. His clothes are an armour of ice. In the distance, the city lights are a pale smudge in the sky. He tries to stand again but his body jars, like a ship caught in icy waters. “Get up, Visram!” he orders himself. “Move!” Instead he falls, curls in the soft snow, and drifts off again. The bird lands on his shoulder. She nudges her way up to his ear and begins to sing.
Mansoor tries to clear the frost from the glass door of his store with a handkerchief. Instead, he creates a pattern of semicircles over the front sign, M.G. Visram & Son Dry Cleaners, Inc., Suiting Canada Since 1987. Outside, a thin, sharp snow is falling, the flurries visible only under the street lamps. It’s past seven in the morning and still pitch dark. The winter sun will not rise for at least another hour. Most of the stores in the shopping plaza, located in an upscale neighbourhood in southwest Calgary, are closed: the travel agency, the hairdresser, the dentist’s office, the video store. Only the dry cleaners and the twenty-four-hour convenience store are open, like fluorescent snow globes in the dark.
Mansoor turns around and inspects his store, just as he does each morning. It’s a small space, only five hundred and fifty-three square feet, but it’s well organized and this gives him a great deal of satisfaction. Gold frames pock the wall above the cash register, like a collage of family photographs. In one, a dollar bill, the first one he earned in Canada, from August 1973. In another, his business licence, and yet another, his pledge to his customers. “I may not have the answer, but I will find it. I may not have the time, but I will make it.” Against another wall, a short bookshelf holds his books with titles like In Search of Excellence and Men’s Strength & Power Training, as well as biographies of men like Henry Ford, Bill Gates, and Neil Armstrong. The front of the store is separated from the back by a glass wall, allowing his customers to see what a well-organized operation he runs. Rows of suits and shirts, swathed in plastic, hang on a conveyor belt like headless men.
In the backroom, he flips open a calendar to an image of a lone Arctic wolf. A note under today’s date, January 21, has been circled in red and starred. Banker, 3:30 p.m. Mansoor is ready. Fully prepared. He has been for months now. He needs the funds for a dry-cleaning plant, which is central to his new business plan. He has been waiting even longer to share his plan with his son, Ashif. He is the only one who will truly understand its enormity and significance in the marketplace. He is, after all, a brilliant businessman. Just like his father. Tomorrow, Mansoor will finally get his chance. Ashif is coming home for lunch when he is here from Toronto to attend important work meetings.
Above Mansoor’s desk hangs a massive portrait of his father, a copy of the original photo that hung in all of their stores in Uganda, next to the image of Idi Amin, decreed by law, and one of the Imam, expected by the community. A trinity of men. In the photograph, his father stands proudly in front of his flagship store in Kampala. He is tall and rotund, his body weight proof of his wealth. He is in an ivory three-piece suit; a gold pocket watch, purchased in London, hangs from the vest pocket. His hands rest regally on top of a cane with a silver lion’s head. High above him, the sign reads, Visram P. Govindji & Son, Established 1929.
#1 on the Edmonton Bestseller List
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Praise for Night of Power:
“Achingly relatable . . . [Night of Power] handily powers through contemporary Ugandan history, scales the Ismaili Muslim community’s place in it, and delivers both into the setting of 1970’s multicultural-policy-era Canada, a version of the country with, for better and worse, a lasting mythology . . . An original trauma story.”
—The Globe and Mail
"An especially important and accomplished story...elegant, complex, but propulsive and strongly cinematic."
—David Chariandy, author of Brother
“Anar Ali’s Night of Power is a searing and beautiful novel. With perfect pitch, the story glides between the perspectives of father, mother, and son. It is an honest and utterly engaging meditation about love and loss, tenderness and violence, adaptability and delusion, dislocation and rebirth.”
—Lawrence Hill, author of The Book of Negroes and The Illegal
“Night of Power is a deeply moving story of the complications of love, loss, obligation, and inheritance that can both bind a family and tear it apart. Written with great compassion for all of its characters, Anar Ali offers us a book that is tender and wise.”
—Camilla Gibb, author of several novels, including Sweetness in the Belly
"With Night of Power, Anar Ali tells a truly Canadian story. A story of dreams fulfilled and broken, of expectations set and dashed, and ultimately of understanding what really matters. With her signature style, she paints a deep portrait of complex, unforgettable characters."
—Naheed Nenshi, Mayor of Calgary
“I was profoundly moved by Night of Power. Her characters have lingered in my mind long after the last page. Anar Ali is a tremendously gifted storyteller.”
—Donna Morrissey, author of The Fortunate Brother
"Ali’s story of an Ugandan family fleeing Idi Amin’s regime and resettling in Calgary maintains real urgency . . . Family tensions, culture shock and racism collide in this taut tale."
—NOW Magazine, The 14 best books to read in summer 2019