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A poetic novel melds the past and the present of the author's native Jamaica through the voices of a series of women, both real and mythological, whose lives embody the country's mythology, colonial history, and matrilineal traditions
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Marcia Douglas was born in the U.K. and grew up in Jamaica. She now lives in Boulder, CO where she teaches in the Creative Writing Program at the University of Colorado. Her other books include The Marvellous Equations of the Dread: A Novel in Bass Riddim, Notes From a Writer's Book of Cures and Spells, and Electricity Comes to Cocoa Bottom.From Kirkus Reviews:
A lyrical evocation of Jamaican women's lives makes this debut, indebted to myth and magical realism, more prose poem than fully realized novel. Douglas ambitiously attempts both a history and a present-tense accounting of life for island women over the whole span beginning with the time of slavery. A range of narrators helps out. They include Bella, a protean figure who at will assumes varying identities; Ida, an old woman hospitalized at the Garden, a local asylum; Claudia, a teacher looking for her real mother; Muriel, gone to work in New York; and her teenage daughter Gracie, left behind in Jamaica. These voices are interwoven like the hardy strands in a basket, but somethings too calculated and predictable in the stories that are told. Emphasizing evocation more than action, the novelist relies on tired ethnic and feminist iconswronged women (Gracie is raped by a neighbor); herbal remedies (Madam Fate is a plant that cures all ills); crafts (Idas a skilled carver of calabashes); and a female Creator (disturbed by a vision of slave ships, she created Jamaica). Ida, born with a limp, recalls a childhood marred by her deformity, her marriage, her three dead babies, and by the voicesof dead slaves and lost soulsshe hears in her special calabash. Muriel, cleaning offices in New York, writes to Gracie describing her difficult life there and her past as a prostitute. Gracie, missing her mother, befriends an old woman, who asks her to look for the magical Madam Fate plant. Claudia continues her search for the mother who abandoned her at birth, and Bella has cameos appearances as a voice from the past. No resolutions, just a cumulatively patchy portrait of women struggling to survive. Carefully wrought prose that never really resonates. -- Copyright ©1998, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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