When We Were Orphans by Kazuo Ishiguro (Knopf Canada) fell as if by magic into my lap and I read it relentlessly for two days, almost without sleeping, eating, bathing or responding to my partner and daughter. Like all great works of imagination, this is a novel of memory, more pointedly the memory of Christopher Banks, a celebrated London detective whose life is one long obsession with his gauzy recollections of his mother and father, who vanished during his childhood in Shanghai. The story of their disappearance and Banks’s journey by boat to live with an aunt in London is told so unflinchingly and in such detail that I immediately shared Banks’s obsession with sleuthing, then cheered him on during his trip to Shanghai to solve the mystery of a circumstance that had changed his life. What is more compelling than a child’s desire for his parents? Ishiguro creates a tragic hero in the traditional sense—a man whose sadness has been absorbed so seamlessly into an external life of logic and glamour that even the reader is surprised when confronted with the insanity of Banks, the child who lost his parents too soon. Does his tormented, relentless search for his parents drive him mad, or is he deranged simply by the torque of grief upon the mind? When the adult Banks drives through the labyrinthine streets of the International Settlement of Shanghai, locates his childhood home after twenty years of absence, meets the Chinese family who have taken it over and changed it, and walks through it and observes what it appears to be compared to what it is, I had to stop reading from time to time. The story took me back to the childhood home of my memory and I had to go back and inspect its door frames, its double-paned windows and the secret closet beneath the stairs where my brothers and I hid in the luggage. What happened to the tradition of the family home in the New World? If such a tradition was ever established, I don’t know of it personally; but it is a place I’ve often conjured in my mind, and one that I will travel back to again and again.