Striking ... Readers peer through chain-link fences and discretely pulled curtains along with Leung’s vivid, quotable characters—and are reminded that life doesn’t happen between soap-opera episodes, cigarettes smoked at the kitchen sink, and trips to the mall, but during them.
[A] compact gem of a collection ... Reading That Time I Loved You is like peeking through a curtain at the truth behind the lives of people who are neighbours – you see them on the street every day, you say hello – and who are utterly unknown at the same time. Good novelists are adept at unearthing secrets about the human experience that hide in plain sight, and Leung does this with such care each character is a heartache ... a memorable and bewitching read. This is a novel that dazzles with its subtly, that befriends its reader in the dead of night, that leaves a lasting impression and a new way of understanding people and the world ... eung is a writer who understands people, all kinds of people, so she knows that it is the moment when everything is supposed to be perfect when it is least likely to be – and that when beauty comes out of nowhere, when a light is directed at you in the darkness, you have to be ready or you’ll miss it altogether.
As a portrait of a moment in Toronto’s life, That Time I Loved Youis vivid and engaging. Beyond that portrait, though, some crucial truth is missing. The parental suicides that tease the possibility of depth beneath the suburban gloss are explored only in passing, and if there’s a connection between the deaths, it isn’t clear. The children grow up enough to discover sexual discomfort and adult racism, but the scenarios they face are standardized to the point of parody ... Racism and homophobia enter the stories with similarly adolescent simplicity ... That Time I Loved You’s cover asks the reader to consider Leung in the tradition of John Cheever and Alice Munro. It’s too bold a request. Leung has enormous potential as a writer, but there’s a layer of complexity that separates her writing from the seas of deep emotion. As the initial deaths are swept aside, we’re left with a neighborhood farther from Cheever’s suburbia and closer to Garrison Keillor’s Lake Wobegon, where tensions resolve and all the children remain, somehow, above average.