That Time I Loved You

Carrianne Leung's novel examines the diplomatic breakdown of a suburban community.

Carrianne Leung

The suburbs of the 1970s promised to be heaven on earth — new houses, new status, happiness guaranteed. But in a Scarborough 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 windows, always returning to June, an irrepressible adolescent Chinese-Canadian, coming of age in this shifting world. 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. (From HarperCollins)

That Time I Loved You won the 2019 Daunta Gleed Literary Award for short fiction.

Why Carrianne Leung wrote That Time I Loved You

"I remember, as a child, there were a few suicides in the neighbourhood. That was my first experience of suicide and I found it very provocative being a child and becoming aware that there were people who would choose to kill themselves. And how does a child get their head around something so profound and such an existential choice — to live or to die?

The book is not so much about why or how, but more about what's left behind.- Carrianne Leung

"I never wanted suicide just to be some literary device. I didn't want to reduce it to a metaphor or backdrop for the characters growing up... So the second story was an exploration of the last day of one of the parents' lives before she decides to commit suicide later that night. I just wanted to be careful around that theme. The book is not so much about why or how, but more about what's left behind. What are the questions that suicide brings up in the survivors around how to bear life? Sometimes life isn't very bearable and how do we make those decisions to live everyday?"

Read more of Carrianne Leung's interview with CBC Books.

From the book

My street, like the rest of the subdivision, was brand new. Most of the neighbours had moved in four years ago, right after the houses were finished. My parents loved the neat grid of black road, the bright white stripes to differentiate the lanes, the chain-linked fences that divided our properties but gave us views into the neighbours' yards, the young, weeping trees lining our streets. They said you couldn't get "all this" in Hong Kong, where everybody was crammed on top of each other in tiny apartments, and they would sweep their arms to include whatever "all this" referred to, like showcase girls on The Price is Right. They were always saying, "June you don't know how lucky you are that you were born here and not there." Mom and Dad had come to this country on student visas 15 years ago, but the way they told it, it was like they were fresh off the boat. But I suppose they had lived in the city for those years in crammed apartments, and moving out here to the suburbs, Mom and Dad finally got some land. Even though it was only a square lawn and a rectangular backyard, this was a big deal. Land was land.

From That Time I Loved You by Carrianne Leung ©2018. Published by HarperCollins.

Interviews with Carrianne Leung

Carrianne Leung on her collection of linked short stories, "That Time I Loved You," which goes behind the closed doors of a neighbourhood in 1970s Scarborough.

Other books by Carrianne Leung


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