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The Strange Scent of Saffron
Guernica Editions, Fall 2021
160 pages
Trade Paperback
ISBN13: 9781771836197
ISBN10: 1771836199
Translated from the French
$20.00 Canada, $17.95 US, £11.95 UK

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Lower Saint-Lawrence, summer 1988. Looking to escape the violent grip of her uncle and twin brother, Nil heads for Le Bic with a half-tamed fox in tow. There, the tough young woman meets Jacob, an HIV-positive restaurant owner mixed up in illegal saffron trafficking. Meanwhile in India, Amar is about to take part in his first harvest of the red gold while his sister Alaka tries to conceal the embarrassment of her first period. The Strange Scent of Saffron is a raw, gut-wrenching novel about the lack and gradual attainment of empowerment, partly through a sensorially-rich connection with the world.

There's something not right about this girl's face. As if her right eyelid is heavier than the left. Her uneven gaze makes her look like a friendly robot. She expresses herself with confidence and hesitation in the same breath, as if to cover her tracks. What's behind that deep notch in the middle of her brow? She clearly bites her nails, and the remaining skin is blackened. Her hair droops sadly, stops just short of touching the shoulders. She stuck her tongue out to catch the last drop of beer. The antithesis of femininity, of most other young women who, like her, barely have a foot in their twenties. Actually, who goes around in such a clunker and could afford a meal at The Gourmand? Unless it holds a stash of dough lifted on her way here, which would explain why she keeps stealing anxious glances in its direction. There's no risk though, I've got her licence plate number.

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