Cyril Rowntree migrates to Toronto from Jamaica in 2012. Managing a precarious balance of work and university he begins to navigate his way through the implications of being racialized in his challenging new land.
A chance encounter with a panhandler named Patricia leads Cyril to a suitcase full of photographs and letters dating back to the early 1920s. Cyril is drawn into the letters and their story of a white mother’s struggle with the need to give up her mixed race baby, Edward. Abandoned by his own white father as a small child, Cyril’s keen intuition triggers a strong connection and he begins to look for the rest of Edward’s story.
As he searches, Cyril unearths fragments of Edward’s itinerant life as he crisscrossed the country. Along the way, he discovers hidden pieces of Canada’s Black history and gains the confidence to take on his new world.
“A remarkable novel. In this, her first, Sheila Murray has created a haunting allegory out of the Caribbean’s relationship with Canada. Cyril leaves Jamaica for Toronto, where he discovers that the real education he will need for ‘a better life’ involves an exploration of the life of a man born seven decades before him. Edward’s lonely journey of social marginalization takes him from Africville to the lumber camps of British Columbia across much of the twentieth century; his life of adversity and poverty in a country yet to recognize its racist policies and practices is a parallel to the life Cyril is trying to forge anew. This novel is a great achievement; it reminds us that the surmountable obstacles facing us in any age are frequently unfounded and misinformed prejudices.”
“Murray’s rich narrative offers mystery, but it also spans decades of Canadian history, differentiating Finding Edward from the typical immigrant story. The prospect of better understanding Edward’s life in Canada offers Cyril an escape from his own excruciating isolation. Murray triumphs in capturing the undeniable and unmistakable ache of severe loneliness.”
“In lucid, scintillating prose, suffused with mystery and everyday magic, Sheila Murray delivers one of the most penetrating dramas of Black experience in all of Canadian literature. This tale of a lonely Jamaican student enrolled at Ryerson University follows his obsession with the life of a struggling Black boy in Depression-era Toronto. A parallel portrait of two Black bi-racial men, Finding Edward expands to enfold a sweeping history of Blacks in Canada. This beautiful, necessary novel will become a touchstone.”