Winner of the 2012 LAMBDA Literary Award for Best Lesbian Fiction and of the 2011 Rainbow Awards
Ismail Boxwala made the worst mistake of his life one summer morning twenty years ago: he forgot his baby daughter in the back seat of his car. After his daughter’s tragic death, he struggles to continue living. A divorce, years of heavy drinking, and sex with strangers only leave him more alone and isolated.
But Ismail’s story begins to change after he reluctantly befriends two women: Fatima, a young queer activist kicked out of her parents’ home; and Celia, his grieving Portuguese-Canadian neighbour who lives just six metres away. A slow-simmering romance develops between Ismail and Celia. Meanwhile, dangers lead Fatima to his doorstep. Each makes complicated demands of him, ones he is uncertain he can meet.
About the author
Farzana Doctor is a Toronto-based Registered Social Worker who has been working with individuals and couples since 1993. As an activist, educator and writer, she has taught clinicians, co-written manuals for mental health providers and contributed chapters and articles about 2SLGBTQ+ issues, anti-oppression, self-care and female genital mutilation/cutting. She is the co-founder of WeSpeakOut and the End FGM Canada Network. She has written four critically acclaimed novels and a poetry collection.
- Winner, LAMBDA Literary Award for Best Lesbian Fiction
- Short-listed, Toronto Book Award
- Winner, Rainbow Awards
- Winner, Dewey Diva Pick
Toronto writer Farzana Doctor's second novel is a sensitively written story about the complexities of human relationships, with the added twist of the immigrant experience A warmly felt portrait of an unusual but successful remaking of a family.
The Sudbury Star
Some voices, despite quiet cadences, succeed in making themselves heard very clearly above the cacophony of lesser noises. Writer Farzana Doctor undoubtedly belongs to this minor group, speaking in meaningful whispers and bewitching her readers into complete submission… In her second novel, Six Metres of Pavement, Doctor takes a wild audacious leap, visibly and joyously coming into her own. This is seriously good writing here, such good writing that it hurts. The prose is punctuated with the most delicious silences, the characters display the most eccentric twirls and loops and the tone of the novel, is never, never quite predictable. Such a breath of fresh air!
As a flawed and immensely likable character, Ismail fascinated me with both his lack of vision and awareness for his own life, as well as his damaged heart and soul, that through the course of the book, shifts. He lives in emotional and psychic pain, never having healed, or forgiven himself. Joining him, with their own complex, painful and fascinating histories, are two very different women who have profound and life-changing effects on Ismail, and on each other.
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.
I laughed and cried as I read Six Metres of Pavement and followed Ismail and Celia endearing, brave, and foolish characters who have to live with the irreparable and irreversible. Farzana Doctor blends cross-cultural empathy with wisdom, and shows us paths to wholeness. Read this delightful, warm guide to remaking and choosing your family.
Shauna Singh Baldwin, author of What the Body Remembers, The Tiger Claw and We Are Not in Pakistan
It’s impossible to read Six Metres and be left untouched. Parents of young children will be left biting their lip because they have been in a situation where they just almost forget. College students will understand the complicated love and boundaries of their families. Older readers may recognize Celia’s unrelenting independent spirit in themselves. And everyone in between? They’ll read about a set of perfectly imperfect human beings trying to make sense of circumstances both self-inflicted and uncontrolled. And, with Doctor’s last pages, they’ll be reminded that we are all in the process of healing from something or another.
TPL’s Virtual Book Club
With a quiet, inward-looking analysis of Ismails life, Six Metres of Pavement asks how mourning can make way for grief when its cemented by guilt, and if memories can be defanged. Simmering in the background is a remarkable portrait of immigrant Toronto.
If youre looking for believable characters, look no further than Farzana Doctor's fiction. She has a gift for reality-based situations and conveys anxiety and passion in a story that turns into a real page-turner.
Its enough to hope that Doctor would consider a sequel to this tender portrait of strangers finding community in each other. It would be worth the wait.
Lamda Literary Review
Set in Little Portugal, this novel offers a poignant perspective on difference and understanding.
the characters are refreshingly genuine. Throughout, Doctor skillfully plays with concepts of motion, migration and movement, both physical and emotional.
The Globe and Mail
Its heartfelt work about characters who come to treat their worst scars with due respect and who learn to abide in chosen families who love them. It speaks with a compassionate voice to a truth that surrounds us.
Novels dont often spring sudden tears from me. This story did it several times, and never with tawdry tugs at the heartstrings. The book cuts deep, to the core of love, universal need and our responsibility to others.
The premise for Farzana Doctors second book is compelling.
Quill and Quire