1979: This was the year the parents in my neighbourhood began killing themselves.” From this opening line, That Time I Loved You keeps readers hooked until the very end. Reminiscent of Mona Awad’s 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl, this collection of linked stories reveals children trying to make sense of a new environment that their parents cannot explain to them. The adults are lost when they discover that their idyllic new suburban landscape is home to dark secrets, and is not the haven that they thought it was.
Carrianne Leung, through the perspectives of multiple characters from different ethnic and social backgrounds, explores what happens behind closed doors in a community of strangers struggling to relate to each other. Always returning to the voice of young June, the adolescent daughter of Chinese-immigrant parents, That Time I Loved You is seen through the eyes of a sensitive and watchful child who is figuring out a world she doesn’t yet understand. With dark humour June observes death and endures betrayal and heartbreak, all to the sound track of 1970s pop music, as she prepares to venture out in to the wider world.
The suburbs of the 1970s promised to be heaven on earth–new houses, new status, happiness guaranteed. But in a subdivision populated by newcomers from all over the world, a series of sudden catastrophic events reveals that not everyone’s dreams come true. Moving from house to house, Carrianne Leung explores the inner lives behind the tidy front gardens and picture-perfect houses. Through June and her neighbours, Leung depicts the fine line where childhood meets the realities of adult life and examines, with insight and sharp prose, how difficult it is to be true to ourselves at any age.
“That Time I Loved You made me laugh, cry, feel, and think. A timely look at the 1970s, it shakes up our ideas about the suburbs. While the houses may look the same, the lives of Carrianne Leung’s characters are anything but—her sharp writing spans racial, cultural, and class lines to find the heart and beauty of the individual lives within. I loved this novel.”
“At turns poignant, sad, haunting and funny, Carrianne Leung’s That Time I Loved You captures life on three ‘sister streets’ in culturally and racially diverse late-1970s Toronto. This necessary web of stories shows us immigrant Toronto as we have rarely seen it. I felt myself made present.”
“That Time I Loved You is amazing, heart-breaking, probing, tender; apocalyptic, in the truest sense. With an activist’s compassion and a poet’s eye, Leung challenges everything we knew (or thought we knew) about the suburbs. Behind the facade of tidy houses, manicured lawns, and well-behaved dogs live characters imprisoned by sadness and despair, battling racism and social injustice, yet relentless in their pursuit of love. This is the best coming-of-age story I’ve read in a long time.”
“That Time I Loved You is heady, necessary writing from one of the most talented and socially engaged authors of our time. Read this, and you’ll encounter within those quiet streets with buzzing streetlamps their true madness and rare beauty.”
“In That Time I Loved You, Carrianne Leung reveals a suburb on the cusp of change, families whose names are no longer Smith and Watson, but rather Chow and Da Silva. Leung illuminates with clear unassuming prose and much compassion, a neighbourhood that is complex, disturbing, funny, sad and very human.”
“With compassion and masterful storytelling, Leung walks us past neat front yards and deep into kitchens, bedrooms and basements, to show us that life in the suburbs isn’t as tidy as it might seem. That Time I Loved You is about children losing innocence and adults burying pain, and yet is also a hopeful portrayal of friendship, kinship and community.”