Publisher: Fernwood Publishing (Roseway imprint)
Pub date: Sep 2010
Source: LibraryThing Early Reviewers
This first novel by freelance writer Chris Benjamin is such a great read. Spanning the globe from Canada to Indonesia, it follows the lives of two very different people who come together through a series of strange occurrences.
Mark is a social worker in Canada who is increasingly dissatisfied with his job and life in general. While he became a social worker to help people, he finds he has become demoralised and rather indifferent in his professional and personal life.
Bumi is an Indonesian migrant in Canada who is living there illegally. A brilliant student who was looking at a bright future (although under the authoritarian Suharto regime) Bumi has had to escape from his home in Indonesia, leaving his wife and children behind. Bumi’s obsessive behavior (brought on by OCD) makes him the prime suspect when children in his village start to die without any apparent cause. He is forced to flee his home to escape the persecution brought on by superstition and suspicion.
Mark and Bumi meet on the subway and these very different men forge a connection that changes their lives.
The two characters – Mark and Bumi – cross paths, become friends after a fashion and this relationship changes the way they think, and what they accept as life.
There are many parallels between these two characters. Both their relationships with their families is rather similar. While they are both well-written characters Bumi’s character is the one that stayed with me. His situation evokes has such pathos that I found myself continually rooting for him to find a better life and some sense of belonging, happiness and contentment.
Mark, though well-written and completely believable is a difficult character to like, and comes across as whiny. He has all the options and support one could ask for, but seems to choose to do things that don’t give him any pleasure.
Mark is determined to help Bumi any way he can – first with his psychological disorder and then to unite him with his family. This friendship with Bumi also helps Mark reconnect with his estranged sister once he realises that Bumi and his sister have something in common.
Drive-by Saviours is a unique novel that tells a unique story – it also deals with many important issues like plight of immigrants, OCD, and touches on themes like differences between a collective and individualistic society. The island people, their folklore, superstitions and indigenous customs are some of the sub-themes. Benjamin also explores how tourism, while helping economically, destroys the things that make a community special and individual.
While Benjamin has taken on many themes and addressed many different issues in this story, he is a masterful storyteller and keeps it interesting throughout. I’d love to read more from this author.
Find out more about the author Chris Benjamin.
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