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Cereus Blooms at Night

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  1,960 Ratings  ·  163 Reviews
Bold and lyrical, sensual and highly charged, Cereus Blooms at Night is the beautifully written, much-talked-about first novel by Shani Mootoo, one of Canada’s most exciting new literary voices.

At the core of this haunting multi-generational novel are the shifting faces of Mala – adventurer and protector, recluse, and madwoman. Related by the engaging voice of Tyler, Mala’
Paperback, 280 pages
Published March 28th 1998 by Emblem Editions (first published October 1st 1996)
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Sarah Sammis
Aug 30, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: released, borrowed
Cereus Blooms at Night is one of the most powerful and thought provoking books I've read this year. I wish I had finished it before the BTT question last week about obscenity in literature because it makes a good argument for when explicit scenes are needed in a book to tell a story.

Shani Mootoo wastes no words in Cereus Blooms at Night. Everything has a meaning and often more than one. The cereus of the title both refer to the cactus that grows in Mala's yard and to Mala's brief moment of true
Claire McAlpine
Cereus Blooms at Night is the partially told story of one woman’s life, beginning when she is admitted to an alms house, suspected of having murdered her father and slowly unravelling back to the turning points, the highs and lows which brought her to be in the state she is in on arrival.

It is a novel narrated in parts, each part focusing on a character(s) who were influential in her life, including the young man who never knew her until this day, the one who became her confidant, perhaps the fi
Eric Gulliver
Apr 05, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I read this book for a class entitled "Literature of the Asian Diaspora." It was under the auspices that I read and analyzed the text.
Cereus Blooms At Night is a story of the visceral experience (and present condition) of Mala Ramchandin. The setting is a fictional island called Paradise located somewhere in the Caribbean. As Nurse Tyler cares for Mala Ramchandin, her condition is viewed as insanity as she merely interacts with insects and audibly speaks to herself. The backstory of the novel is
Here's the thing about Cereus Blooms at Night: it is almost achingly transparently a first novel. Metaphors of all kinds announce themselves again and again and again. The social points are stated kind of obviously (though they are themselves sensitive and perceptive points). The plot, although amorphous, is firmly rooted in one event - but that event is not firmly rooted in anything; rather it happens because it needs to happen in order to allow the rest of the book to happen. (Which, by the wa ...more
Aug 04, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anybody interested in stories about strength and survival
I grew up in Trinidad, so it's clear to me that Shani Mootoo is using Trinidad as the basis of her setting of Lantanacamara. Although I wondered initially why she fictionalized the setting, after reading the book I realized that it might be an effort to keep people from assuming that "this is what life is like in Trinidad" -- so hey, good choice there, Shani Mootoo.

But even more than her visceral evocation of the West Indies, Mootoo is notable as a writer who is not afraid to delve into the dirt
I am having an eminently hard time trying to marshal my thoughts on this book into something coherent for the written word.
It did not leave me with an obvious reason for liking it, at least not one that I can articulate with a specific set of words.

Despite it's less than palatable story matter, this is a beautiful tale. The author has a deft touch with words and description. Rather than being upset by the story or angry at ineffective characters, I ended the book with a hopeful though sad feel
May 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
arghhhh I don't even know where to begin. THIS BOOK IS AMAZING. It's the most depressing book I've ever read but omg the diction that is used in this book is soo beautiful :')
May 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: qtipoc, ny-book-club
Most well-written, without being over-written, and enjoyable-but-challenging book I've read in a long time: "When Pohpoh unlatched the window above the enamel sink, yellow light sliced through the opening, hauling in a cold, fresh morning draught."

A unique fictional perspective, uniquely and beautifully expressed.
A few months ago when I reviewed Shani Mootoo’s most recent novel, Valmiki’s Daughter, I prefaced the review with an admission that I already loved Mootoo’s writing before I even started the book. It was her first novel, Cereus Blooms at Night (1996), that instigated this love. The worth of something as rich as Cereus would be hard to overestimate. I’ve honestly never read anything that had such a strong sensory effect on me: the lilting rhythm of the language, the bittersweetness of the narrati ...more
This is a beautiful story about tough subject matter. It covers a lot of subject matter about sexuality, abuse, mental health, and ultimately love. The story starts out with an elderly woman being brought to a care home and everyone is afraid of her. Through her flashbacks to the past we find out more about her life, and the events that brought her to where she is. It takes place in a fictional country in the Caribbean, but really the story could have taken place anywhere.

This book is on the CB
May 22, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although the story was both compelling and harrowing, and Mootoo's prose was very fine, the odd structure and some passages that lagged kept this from being a 5 star read for me. Even though a short novel, it could have been pruned even more. But it's nice that in a book with only a dozen or so characters, there are two lesbians, a gay man and a FTM transgender character.
May 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loved hearing the Trini in the writing!
Jun 29, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In Shani Mootoo’s novel “everyone wants to be someone they are not” – just like the unassuming Cereas flowers that bloom at night into something phenomenal. Thus all the character’s have alter ego’s – Mala has her child personality Pohpoh, Otoh was once a girl and is now becoming a man but not quite, narrator Tyler discovers that he is gay and likes to cross-dress, Ambrose goes from a sleepy man to an energetic force after he is released from his guilt.

The tale of incest, child abuse and mansla
Kristine Morris
Jun 03, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: canadian
I decided to let the reading of this novel percolate a bit before writing a few comments. Sometimes my initial impressions improve after thinking a bit more about a book. Not so in this case. Part 1 of the book is very engaging, mostly because of the character Tyler who despite trying hard not to interject himself into the novel, keeps doing exactly that. The main character, Mala, is a very distant character. Because of her mental state, she communicates very subtlety with Tyler, not directly wi ...more
Maayan K
Oct 29, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A sensory experience. I really loved the setting, in the Trinidad-like Caribbean island of Lantanacamara in the town of Paradise. The smells and tastes, plants and bugs, form an important backdrop, but also important thematic material. Blossoming and decay each take their turn.

Fluid gender/sexuality, as well as sexual violence, trauma, love, and insanity all have a role here. Despite the heavy topics, the book is a pretty fast read, and not really a downer. The plot is simple and perfect, the c
Dec 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, lgbt
this book fills me with so much love! the narrative structure definitely reminds me of Arundhati Roy's The God of Small Things. The language in this novel is very beautiful but with a very painful story attached. We follow the main character Mala as we get to know her childhood and how she ended up where she is in the beginning of the novel. The book discusses religion, sexual abuse, nature, love, trauma, family, sexuality, gender, etc. One of my favorite moments is the connection to nature and ...more
Megan Baxter
I am sort of at a loss for how to write this review. I wanted to like Cereus Blooms at Night, but I found it curiously weightless. I can see what it's striving for, but as far as I'm concerned, it never comes near to reaching it. It's hard to put your finger on what exactly is missing, but it feels like it's ticking a lot of the literature checkboxes, without ever doing anything more to become a living breathing urgent tale.

Note: The rest of this review has been withheld due to the changes in Go
Sep 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Cereus Blooms at Night is essentially a fairytale about coping with trauma. The trauma of lost love, rape, colonialism, forced assimilation, mental illness, self mutilation, and homophobia. Which is to say, this is a very graphically violent, very hard to read book. But in all the darkness there's some hope in the form of magic, witches, and the healing powers of nature, as an antidote to white christian colonial patriarchy. I thought the writing was amazing and I also think this book would make ...more
Sep 09, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book made me angry. Characters saw the tragedy occuring in their town but none of them did anything until it was too late, including the main character, Mala. Asha was the only sensible person in the whole book. But, I think that is what the book is about, closing ones eyes to hurt (abuse, racism, colonialism), doing nothing about it and the consequences.

The story was interesting and powerful. I loved the imagery. (The whole reason I picked up this book was because I have night-blooming cer
Randi Abel
Mar 03, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a book! There is just so much in there I don't know where to begin. I LOVED all the queer characters. Utterly refreshing to see so many characters in one book who challenge heteronormativity. It was just really difficult to read because it is so tragic, traumatizing, and sad. But sometimes life can be those things and Shani Mootoo has represented them adeptly.
C. Kimmi  Ramnine
Oct 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2014
Words cannot begin to describe how touched, heartbroken and healed this book leaves me each time I've read and re-read it.

I only wish I had found it at 14. I grew up yearning for books that spoke of real horrors, real love and real Caribbean magics like this one.
This multiple award nominee from the mid-1990s was not familiar to me until I found it on the "100 Novels That Make You Proud to be Canadian" CBC list. Like many books on that list, this one is Canadian-ish, in that Mootoo was born in Ireland, grew up in Trinidad and at the time of publication was dividing her time between Canada (Vancouver) and the States. This novel is entirely set in the Caribbean (Trinidad, I assume). However, the original publisher was Canadian (Press Gang Publications). Th ...more
Mark Lisac
The lovely title could have been replaced by something like Cockroaches in Paradise, which would have fit the theme of violent incest that emerges as the centre of the mystery that unravels. The first chapter draws you in and the later ones may gradually make you wish it hadn't.
A gay male nurse named Tyler on a fictional Caribbean island (probably inspired by Trinidad) begins caring for a silent old woman named Mala Ramchandin at a charitable home for the aged. He begins the book as the narrator
Jul 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: magical-realism, qt
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 27, 2017 rated it liked it
I'm not sure how I feel about this book. On the one hand it's very engaging: its content is unique and the imagery is beautiful. Unfortunately, however, I can't say the writing is that good. That - along with an ocean of plot holes - made this read average at best. I really did enjoy this book, though. I recommend it to those who can stomach its tough subject matter.
I'm pretty sure this book saved my life with the LGBT+ representation, the beautifully written & complex characters, each and every word from start to finish, and THE PLOT THICKENING. A beautiful, heartbreaking, but compelling story from the first word to the last sentence. I'm going to cry about this book for the rest of my life now.
A deeply disturbing and beautifully told story.
Evan Lachapelle
Sep 08, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
low brow erotic garbage
Nov 24, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
"The cereus will bloom in just another few nights. Can you wait?" I whispered to him.
"Yes, yes. Just barely, but I will wait. "
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Shani Mootoo, writer, visual artist and video maker, was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1957 to Trinidadian parents. She grew up in Trinidad and relocated at age 24 to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. She currently lives in Toronto, Canada.
More about Shani Mootoo...
“I brought my face inches away from hers and whispered, 'If I were strapped like that, I would hate it, too.' And then I felt foolish, for what was the point of empathizing without taking more positive action? I wanted to touch her again but I left and returned to my room feeling impoverished and weak.” 4 likes
“Somehow you don't question things until you come face to face with the person and suddenly- suddenly you realize that behind all them stories it have a flesh- and- blood, breathing, feeling person who capable of hurting, yes! Well, ask her, na. Ask her if she want to garden. I think about starting a plot for the old people to have something to do. Some people say that gardening good for old people. I am proof of that!” 2 likes
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