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Night of Power

Once in a while a book comes along that is relatable and diverse, and makes you feel like you are better for reading it. 
Night of Power by Anar Ali surprised me. With a poignantly accessible style of prose that's far from rudimentary, Night of Power invites its readers into the lives of a family settled in Calgary for the past 25 years. Favouring clarity and succinctness over verbosity, Anar Ali's novel gives readers the permission to intimately bear witness to each character, as he or she struggles to fit into a world that's handed down to them.

Mansoon Visram came to Canada from Uganda, with his wife Layla and son Ashif, when the dictator Idi Amin expelled South Asians from the country. Starting over in another country is never easy. Mansoor was born and brought up in Africa, but tried to do his best to recreate the life they had before. His father created an empire out of nothing. But, the struggle has been evident. Having to work as a car salesman in his earlier years, he now runs a small dry cleaner in suburban Calgary. His father's words of failure echo endlessly, and he's determined to prove himself worthy even at the expense of his family.

Ashif has grown up in Canada most of his life, and like a lot of kids of immigrant parents, struggles with his identity. 

"India-Africa-Muslim. He doesn't fit into any category easily. He looks Indian but he isn't. He was born in Africa but isn't African. He's Muslim but not that kind of Muslim. Saying anything would only lead to endless questions, as if he was an expert, a guide at a museum."

He's done fairly well for himself (so it seems), a young corporate who's on the fast track to the executive suite. But, he deals with his own demons -- a career he's good at but loathes. As a child he didn't like crowds --or noise-- and "preferred to stay in his room and read fairy tales or make up little stories", but gave that dream up to please his father, who said, "It was fiction and it had no value." He told his son that it would only distract him from important subjects like math and science because they were "the ones that really count."

In a short book, writer Anar Ali has managed to infuse a myriad of themes seamlessly. One of these is the pressure to conform in the corporate workplace. 

"Merit is important, but how well you get along with people is just as important if you want to move up at the company. You have to attend endless client dinners and events. You have to participate in employee activities outside of work hours...You have to be able to speak about sports, and, in the company of only men, women's bodies. You have to follow the rules. He finds it exhausting. But he does it anyway. Has to if he wants to fit in. He's always wearing a mask. A constant impostor. Not just as work, but in every part of his life. So that no one knows him." 

Immigrant children have a universal understanding of the sacrifices their parents endured to bring them a better life, and are forever shackled by the burden that they have to do whatever it takes to ease the suffering on their aging parents. 

You see that pressure with Ashif. When his mother calls him to help bail his dad out from debt, Ashif feels like he has to do anything, even if it means immediately cashing out all his investments that he has meticulously bought into his portfolio to ensure that his parents can live the rest of their lives comfortably, and he too can retire earlier from the corporate hell he feels he is drowning in. Now, with one move of liquidating his assets, he knows "his father's loan is going to wipe out all his savings. He'll have to stay at his job longer. At least another decade. He gasps for air." Even now, grown up Ashif, cannot follow his heart. His dreams will once again have to shift priorities. 

As a reader, you feel the sadness because you understand the repercussions of the lack of communication between family members. 

Even in pain, you can feel the love behind the actions. Night of Power helps us see people and their actions in a different light, one where you judge less and understand more. 

Anar Ali has written a beautiful tale, one where you feel like you are walking hand in hand with the characters. The words are simple, yet purposeful, and have an immense power to tug at your heartstrings in the simplest of ways.

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