Like Every Form of Love

From the Scotiabank Giller Prize finalist, a gripping exploration of class, race, friendship, sexuality, what an author owes her subject and what it means to be a good person—all wrapped up in a riveting Canadian true crime story.

Padma Viswanathan was staying on a houseboat on Vancouver Island when she struck up a friendship with a warm-hearted, working-class queer man named Phillip. Their lives were so different it seemed unlikely to Padma that their relationship would last after she returned to her usual life. But, that week, Phillip told her a story from his childhood that kept them connected for more than twenty years.

Phillip was the son of a severe, abusive man named Harvey, a miner, farmer and communist. After Phillip’s mother left the family, Harvey advertised for a housekeeper-with-benefits. And so Del, the most glamorous and loving of stepmothers, stepped into Phillip’s life. Del had hung out with Fidel Castro and Che Guevara in Mexico City before the Cuban revolution; she was also a convicted bank robber who had violated her parole and was suspected in her ex-husband’s murder. Phillip had long since lost track of Del, but when Padma said she’d like to write about her and about his own young life, he eagerly agreed. Quickly, though, Padma’s research uncovered hidden truths about these larger-than-real-life characters. Watching the effects on Phillip as these secrets, evasions and traumas came to light, she increasingly feared that when it came to the book or the friendship, only one of them would get out of this process alive.

In this unforgettable memoir, Padma reflects on the joys and frictions of this strange journey with grace, humour and poetry, including original readings of Hans Christian Andersen fairytales and other stories that beautifully echo her characters’ adventures and her own. Like Every Form of Love is that rare thing: an irresistible literary page-turner that twists and turns, delivering powerful revelations, right to the very end.

Praise for the book

Like Every Form of Love is a rich hybrid of biography, autobiography, fairy tale and detective work. In moments of lyric intensity, Viswanathan searches others’ minds, others’ memories and discovers how fluid and fragmentary identity is. A potent meditation on what it means to turn others into story.” —Rosemary Sullivan, author of The Betrayal of Anne Frank: A Cold Case Investigation

“Everyone knows that the teller tells the tale, but master tellers also know how the tale tells them, exacting a toll.  Padma Viswanathan is a born teller, a master reporter, a master senser, and indeed this may be her masterpiece. The tale she tells is a doozie, but so has been its toll, and her reader will experience the rare, sometimes heartrending privilege of partaking in both.” —Lawrence WeschlerMr. Wilson’s Cabinet of Love and Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees

“As Padma Viswanathan’s unlikely friendship with a stranger develops over twenty years, the two uncover his perilous childhood, his loving and dangerous stepmother, an unsolved murder and a thousand shards from his mysterious past. Between them, they connect the dots but lose each other in the long painful process of reassembling his history. This is the searching story of how digging for the truth tests the boundaries of a passionate friendship.”  —Linda Spalding, author of Who Named the Knife and The Purchase