Good Storyline but Did Not Connect to the Characters
By M.G. Vassanji
Alfred A. Knopf, $25.95, 305 pages, 3 stars
The Magic of Saida introduces the reader to Kamal who is hospitalized in a Tanzanian hospital. He swears he has been drugged but finds Lateef, a man who will listen to his rants and possibly help him. Kamal has lived in Canada for the last forty years with enough comfort and wealth that he begins to feel guilty as he explores his African home. He is viewed as a foreigner, even though he speaks the language and was born there. Kamal realizes his children are too westernized and will never view Africa as their home. Kamal wanders between the present and past as his western guilt pushes him to find a childhood friend, Saida. Saida and Kamal had a special relationship where they shared knowledge and taught each other what the other one did not know. Kamal’s father disappeared when he was young and returning to the town where he grew up brings lots of memories and regrets. Saida seems to be the link for Kamal, if only he can find her.
The Magic of Saida piqued my interest initially, but became too disjointed as the author interspersed Swahili throughout the text, which made reading this book cumbersome. This clunky-ness made it difficult to get into the story or attach to Kamal.
Reviewed by Seniye Groff