Under the Visible Life was an engaging read, written by the Toronto author, Kim Echlin. It intertwined the lives of two strong women linked by challenges and a deep love of music. The settings ranged from Hamilton, Pakistan, Montreal and New York where the women lived through difficult times, loss and struggles for independence.
Mahsa was born in Afghanistan. Her parents were lovers who lived in a cultural divide. Her father, an American, had swept her Mor away against the wishes of her devout Muslim family. Her parents shared their love of life and music with Mahsa until tragedy struck and they were killed, changing the trajectory of Mahsa’s life and eventually leading her to university in Montreal to keep her safe from her Mor’s family.
Katherine lived with her single mother in Hamilton. He mother supported her, trying to make ends meet by working at the Connaught Hotel (a well-known past landmark of downtown Hamilton). Her mother had been ostracized for loving and having a child with a Chinese man who had eventually left her. Katherine loved jazz music, met a black man and embarked into a lifetime of late nights, jazz clubs and a husband she adored yet who was unreliable.
The two women become fast friends, meeting each other periodically to play music together. They shared the challenges of being mothers and musicians. Both put their lives on hold for their families and seemed to put off their own ambitions waiting for a better time. The years sped by and the reader is anxious to see what will happen to them both.
The story is told through short paragraphs alternating between the two women. As the reader’s anxiety grows it is difficult to find a place to pause when wondering what was going to happen to Mahsa or her family. I would recommend reading this novel and think that anyone local would appreciate the references to the Hamilton landmarks. I hope that I will have a chance to meet this author in the future and look forward to reading more of her work including the Disappeared which in my TBR pile!