Under the Visible Life

Kim Echlin's novel takes readers from the bustling harbour of Karachi to the streets of 1970s Montreal to the smoky jazz clubs of New York City.

Kim Echlin

Fatherless Katherine carries the stigma of her mixed-race background through an era that is hostile to her and all she represents.  It is only through music that she finds the freedom to temporarily escape and dream of a better life for herself, nurturing this hard-won refuge throughout the vagaries of unexpected motherhood and an absent husband, and relying on her talent to build a future for her family.

Orphaned Mahsa also grows up in the shadow of loss, sent to relatives in Pakistan after the death of her parents. Struggling to break free, she escapes to Montreal, leaving behind her first love, Kamal. But the threads of her past are not so easily severed, and she finds herself forced into an arranged marriage. For Mahsa, too, music becomes her solace and allows her to escape from her oppressive circumstances.

When Katherine and Mahsa meet, they find in each other a kindred spirit as well as a musical equal, and their lives are changed irrevocably. Together, they inspire and support one another, fusing together their cultures, their joys, and their losses — just as they collaborate musically in the language of free-form, improvisational jazz. (From Hamish Hamilton Canada)

From the book

What she is I am. My mother ran away with my father from Lashkar Gah when she was eighteen and gave birth to me in Karachi, the pearl of the Arabian Sea. She liked to make us laugh with her Pashto-Urdu-American jokes and her proverbs and idioms in English. Her name was Breshna Najibullah. She has bright grey eyes that were interested in everything, especially in me and my father. She wore her long hair loose and she had a half-moon scar on her chin from a fall as a child. It looked like a little second smile. She moved with great energy, and gracefully.

From Under the Visible Life by Kim Echlin ©2015. Published by Hamish Hamilton Canada.