Dionne Brand's Love Enough (2014)

Love Enough - Dionne Brand

"Yes, June collects sadness. What would happen if no one remembered sadness? We’d walk around mutilated and mutilating and not know how we got there or have any remorse."

 

Perhaps this is as true of the author, Dionne Brand, as it is of June in Love Enough, for characters in In Another Place, Not Here and What We All Long For seem to embody this quality as well.

Love Enough seems to simultaneously rail against this tendency and honour it. It is a mass of contradictions (as is love, itself): beautifully and hauntingly expressed.

 

Throughout the narrative, many characters come up against uncomfortable truths. They have believed something or someone to be true; instead, they have misunderstood.

 

"If you were to notice every small physical gesture of an individual person and if you observed those small gestures over the course of a year and a half, say, and if you were to lose that person you should be able to find that person. Like tracking the genome sequence, but the genome sequence of gestures. You should be able to find that person. You should."

 

You should. You should be able to.

 

But the implication is that you cannot.

 

But, why not?

 

Perhaps we are tracking the wrong trail.

 

"As we all do, June had expected her own reflection in the lover’s face. Her reflection being a benign understanding. But the lover’s face, in the end, was fierce and foreign. It wasn’t the same person. Not someone June knew at all."

 

A novel about the nature of love might be sprawling to afford the opportunity to contain all those unanswerable questions, but Dionne Brand is a poet. One expects precision of language and Love Enough exhibits this. A single sentence, for all its simplicity, may have been laboured on for hours. (Another contradiction.)

 

"The woman loves being loved, more than she loves. That the man loves her is more compelling than whether she loves him. But sometimes, as now, she is overwhelmed by this love and breaks off to the lake or to the red underwings of a black bird."

 

Some of the statements seem also mythic in their universality. And the philosophical link between love and freedom (strikingly illustrated on the cover), connection and disconnection, is explored in layers. "To be lost or to be free."

 

"They weren’t old men really, his father and his uncle, but they seemed old because of how their life was. It was all in the past tense. And when they told him what he should do, he felt as it they were welcoming him to some petrified life. So he had separated himself from them, separated himself from the grim warmth around the counter at Bilan. He felt left."

 

With such exacting prose, it's ironic that chaos lurks beneath. Disorder. Happiness?

 

"And people with ordered lives always think that people whose lives are in disorder are looking for their kind of order. They think their kind of order is happiness, when their kind of order is gluttony and selfishness. And with all this order, June thinks, we are creating wreckage and disorder, piling it up like a midden."

 

There lies a midden of emotions.

 

"Then is when she decided that you had to keep the noise of other people out of you. This is when she knew the only recourse was to watch and wait. Wait, because you can’t change people, you can only change yourself."

 

With those you love, you must disconnect. And yet there is cost not only with the unfiltered noise of love, but also with the protective layer of silence.

 

"He’s disappeared into the elements of mayhem and randomness. They are indeed elements, June thinks, like iron or mercury. Of course June knows she’s being a little precious. She laughs at herself out loud. Right now she is probably an odd-looking woman in the coffee shop. She looks around and laughs again. Everybody in the coffee shop is odd-looking except those who have someone sitting across from them talking. Companionship makes you look sane."

 

Is it even about love? Perhaps, something else? Perhaps survival.

 

"You have to survive people. You meet people and sometimes you have no control of that, and then it’s a simple matter of waiting them out."

 

Sometimes the shortest sentences contain the greatest amount of confusion: "(No one thinks they’ve been loved enough.)"

 

What one character muses is true, too, of a novel like Love Enough. "It is hard if you really want to do it right."

 

It's very difficult to produce a tightly honed novel on a subject which suggests that any book considering the matter should be the length of Anna Karenina or Kristin Lavransdatter.

Dionne Brand makes it look easy.

This review originally appeared on BuriedInPrint.