Wednesday, March 31, 2021

March 2021 Reading Round-Up

As usual, I've got assorted literary treats to share with you this month. Two of these are by Canadians, three by Americans, and one each by a Byelorussian, an Italian, a Frenchwoman, a Brit and an Australian. Two are Nobel prizewinning authors. All but two of these are fiction, including three audiobooks and one in graphic novel format.

To keep this post to a manageable size, I've set aside some of my favourites for separate posts. Watch for upcoming spotlights on poetry, kids' books, and works by Indigenous authors.

You Are Eating an Orange, You Are Naked by Sheung-King

An elegant, playful novel that captures the inner thoughts of a Cantonese Canadian and his dialogue with a Japanese Canadian as he falls in love with her, never sure if his feelings are reciprocated. The two travel from Macau to Hong Kong to Toronto to Prague. Surreal and sensual, it‘s told in second person, floating in and out of vivid reveries and sharing of childhood memories, interleaved with retellings of traditional stories, plus footnotes.

You manage to finish half of The Unbearable Lightness of Being over the course of a large coffee. I, on the other hand, over the course of drinking my coffee, manage to reply to an email regarding my tax return.

“Vivaldi‘s music is like a teenage boy masturbating.”
“Yeah. Not only are the transitions obvious, Vivaldi, especially, spends so much time on the bridge. It‘s like he‘s about to cum but is holding back—just a little bit longer, just a bit—and then, bam—loud finish, orgasm, done, and the audience claps. I think masturbating is healthy. I just don‘t like music that resembles male orgasms.”

You take out two tall cans of Suntory Premium Malt. The beer cans are gold with blue labels.
“What else is in your bag?” I ask.
You take out a small makeup pouch, a copy of Mieko Kawakami‘s Breasts and Eggs, Purity by Jonathan Franzen, a pair of headphones and cucumber sandwiches.
I pick up your copy of Purity. “This doesn‘t seem like the kind of book you‘d normally read,” I say.
“It‘s awful,” you say. “A guy who used to be in my creative writing class gave it to me, saying that I remind him of the main character. Isn't that gross?"
I nod.
"I don't think I'll be talking to him ever again. What kind of douche gives people books like this? It's misogynistic, and everything he writes is about white people."

“You‘re like a cucumber sandwich.”
“Do you know why I like cucumber sandwiches?”
“Tell me.”
“If there‘s just the right amount of butter, and the cucumbers are sliced to just the right degree of thinness, and the bread is just soft enough, a cucumber sandwich can be quite sophisticated without being fancy. You‘re not quite there yet, but I think you have the potential of becoming a cucumber sandwich one day.”
"I'm flattered."
"I don't want anything fancy or extravagant. If I wanted that, I'd just marry a rich guy. It's easy. I much prefer cucumber sandwiches. And you tell me stories. You're like a storytelling cucumber sandwich."

To Know You're Alive by Dakota McFadzean

These unsettling short stories in comics format make visible the vague fears we have about existence, especially in our childhood years. Canadian cartoonist Dakota McFadzean‘s expressive art is printed in black, white and salmon pink. The pink skies and trees--and pink skin growths, monsters and aliens--accentuate the eeriness.

Oak Flat: A Fight for Sacred Land in the American West by Lauren Redniss

Lauren Redniss has a distinctive style in her works of visual nonfiction: delicate line drawings with saturated colour. Here, she takes a nuanced approach to the issues underlying a controversial copper mine by interviewing three generations in a white settler family and three generations in an Apache family in Arizona. People‘s lives take centre stage in this story of historic injustice plus spiritual, environmental & economic concerns. 

Mike McKee has advice for opponents of the Resolution mine [a lot of whom are former miners]. “I tell them, “Hey, it‘s gonna be 20 years before it opens up. You‘ll be dead, so you don‘t have to worry about it.”

By the summer of 1886, the United States had mobilized approximately one quarter of the army‘s soldiers, some 5,000 troops, as well as Mexican fighters and Apache scouts fighting on the government‘s side, to pursue the remaining Apache fighters: 17 men.

[One group of Apache people were forced to settle on a reservation in the Arizona desert, where temperatures can reach 120F.] “Conditions in San Carlos were so merciless that the army strictly limited periods of deployment. But Natives were prohibited from leaving. Congress‘s 1876 appropriations act stipulated that ‘Indians shall not be allowed to leave their proper reservations.‘ In San Carlos, enforcement was rigorous. Apache who left were routinely hunted down & killed.”

Wendsler Nosie attended high school in Globe, Arizona, the town closest to the San Carlos Reservation. Globe was once inside reservation boundaries, but the US seized the area by executive order in 1876 after silver was discovered.
Wendsler Nosie: “In 1974 in the town of Globe, they still had signs, ‘Dogs & Indians Keep Out.‘ We still had to order outside of restaurants.”

Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster by Svetlana Alexievich
Translated by Keith Gessen

April 26, 2021 will mark the 35th anniversary of the nuclear power plant disaster in Chernobyl. Nobel prizewinning journalist Svetlana Alexievich has curated a profoundly moving chorus of voices, of people talking about their experiences after the disaster. It portrays a particular time in post-Soviet history, a time not only of political and social change, but also of shifting inner landscapes, of how people viewed themselves. Heartbreaking, humane and utterly compelling.

We take the salami, we take an egg—we make a roentgen image—this isn‘t food, it‘s a radioactive byproduct.

When people saw that the milk was from Rogachev, and stopped buying it, there suddenly appeared cans of milk without labels. I don‘t think it was because they ran out of paper.

There was a Ukrainian woman at the market selling big red apples. “Come get your apples! Chernobyl apples!” Someone told her not to advertise that, no one will buy them. “Don‘t worry!” she says. “They buy them anyway. Some need them for their mother-in-law, some for their boss.” 

"I'm not afraid of anyone--not the dead, not the animals, no one. My son comes in from the city, he gets mad at me. 'Why are you sitting here! What if some looter tries to kill you?' But what would he want from me? There's some pillows. In a simple house, pillows are your main furniture. If a thief tries to come in, the minute he peeks his head through the window, I'll chop it off with the axe. That's how we do it here. Maybe htere is no God, or maybe there's someone else, but there's someone up there. And I'm alive." 

The Lying Life of Adults by Elena Ferrante
Translated by Ann Goldstein

An interior novel that somehow is also a page turner. Giovanna‘s coming of age in Naples is a visceral experience and I loved every bit of it. This book and Voices from Chernobyl were buddy reads with my friend Kathy in Vancouver. Buddy reading is a great way to get even more out of a book by sharing reactions, discussing thoughts, and parsing meaning.

What happened, in the world of adults, in the heads of very reasonable people, in their bodies loaded with knowledge? What reduced them to the most untrustworthy animals, worse than reptiles?

I‘d thought I couldn‘t live without him, but time was passing, I continued to live.

He took off his shoes, pants and underpants. He kept on his linen jacket, shirt, tie, and, right below, the erect member that stuck out past legs and bare feet like a quarrelsome tenant who‘s been disturbed.

“Poetry is made up of words, exactly like the conversation we‘re having. If the poet takes our banal words and frees them from the bounds of our talk, you see that from within their banality they manifest an unexpected energy. God manifests himself in the same way.”
“The poet isn‘t God, he‘s simply someone like us who knows how to create poems.”

Les Gratitudes by Delphine de Vigan
(An English translation by George Miller is available)

Aging, aphasia, acknowledging loss, and being thankful for what we‘ve received: this quiet, finely crafted French novel hit me at the perfect moment. Pandemic times have left me acutely aware of our continuing need for physical human contact, as well as emotional and intellectual intimacy, all of which is touched upon, though not the main story. I read this in French, but it‘s been translated into English (among other languages) and it deserves a wide audience.

The Animals in That Country by Laura Jean McKay

A bizarre road trip through Australia during a zooflu pandemic—a virus that enables humans to understand animals. Jean is at the wheel—she‘s a hard-drinking granny looking for her son and granddaughter. Sue—half dog, half dingo—is riding shotgun. Author Laura Jean McKay‘s skill in using language to create a disorienting sense of otherness astounded me. It is a probing look into our relationship with other creatures on this planet. Winner of the Victorian Prize for Literature and currently longlisted for other awards.

"In this country the animals / have the faces of / animals." The epigraph is from Margaret Atwood's poetry collection, The Animals in That Country.

The road curls inland toward the city. Sue wants us to turn off at a little arsehole of a coastal town that crouches around a bay like a kid who won‘t share lollies.

Maybe some of those petrol fumes get to me because when I look up at the birds they seem to say, clear as if it was written in the sky,
Let it be.
Let it be.
Like they‘re the fucking crow Beatles.

Andy‘s voice breaks. “I heard … heard the pregnant mice say that they‘ll … what do you call it? … self-terminate because things aren‘t right. They can do that. Did you know they can do that?”

Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro
Audiobook read by Sura Siu

Kazuo Ishiguro's writing skills are not in question--he is a Nobel laureate--and t
he power of this understated novel crept up on me. The voice is immediately engaging: we see the world from the viewpoint of Klara, an extremely observant Artificial Friend--robot--who‘s destined to be a companion for an adolescent. The politics and social unrest of a possible future can be glimpsed by readers, but they are not Klara‘s concerns. Her job is to understand the human heart. Klara's character is a haunting combo of naïveté and wisdom.

A few weeks ago, reading Noreena Hertz's Lonely Century, I learned about the contemporary use of compassionate AI in the real world. For example, as companions and health monitors for the elderly; or as a listening ear and sexual companion for single men. It left me entirely receptive to a question raised by Ishiguro‘s novel: is our loneliness a precious aspect of our humanity?

Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters
Audiobook read by Renata Friedman

As with Klara and the Sun, this was initially a slow simmer. It took a little while before I warmed up beyond enjoying the writing and finding the characters interesting, to feeling emotionally invested. Once in, however, I was ALL in. These trans women feel so real, facing their desires, flaws and mistakes head-on. Written by a trans woman, this novel is a stunning exploration of queer white womanhood, friendship and chosen families. 

She had previously been under the impression that she had failed majorly for most of her life, but, in fact, she had simply confused failure with being a transsexual.

The car travels slowly, block by block through traffic. Tourists and a few groups of teenagers frogger their way across the streets.

Many people think a transwoman‘s deepest desire is to live in her true gender, but actually, it is to always stand in good lighting.

No One Is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood
Audiobook read by Kristen Sieh

The wordplay in this stream-of-consciousness novel made my heart sing. It begins with our bonkers addiction to social media, accessed through the portal of handheld devices, then morphs into online social justice and political awareness, and eventually it's a wake-up call: a return to the importance of being physically present when our loved ones need us. Invigorating and poignant. 

But then, almost as a serious laugh, a strength entered her voice and she stood like a tree with a spirit in it. And she opened a portal where her mouth was and spoke better than she ever had before. And as she rushed like blood back and forth in the real artery, she saw that ancestors weren‘t just behind, they were the ones who were to come.

The cursor blinked where her mind was. She put one true word after another and put the words in the portal. All at once they were not true, not as true as she could have made them.

Because when a dog runs to you and nudges against your hand for love, and you say automatically, “I know, I know,” what else are you talking about, except the world.

Beau‘s mother called his feeding tubes his cheeseburgers. It was important to do things like that. If you didn‘t call your baby‘s feeding tubes his cheeseburgers, then somehow the feeding tubes won.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Witty Novels by Irish Authors

Are you looking for unusual voice and language that thrills your word-loving soul? Here are four delightfully quirky novels by Irish authors that I've enjoyed recently:

The Liar's Dictionary by Eley Williams

Winceworth and Mallory both work at Swansby‘s New Encyclopaedic Dictionary, but in different eras. In alternating timelines, 1899 and the present, they each experience an eventful (wacky!) day which changes their lives for the better. This novel is playful, witty, warm and wise. Also, it's an ode to vocabulary. Also, it's a lesbian novel. 

Whether a dictionary should register or fix the language is often quoted as a qualifier. Register, as if words are like so many delinquent children herded together and counted in a room; fixed, as if only a certain number of children are allowed access to the room, and then the room is filled with cement.

‘Ah, but here‘s a nice one: “widge-wodge (v.) Informal — the alternating kneading of a cat‘s paws upon wool, blankets, laps etc.” A sappy so-and-so, then.‘

‘That‘s incredibly illegal!‘
‘It can‘t be incredibly one or the other,‘ David said. He couldn‘t help himself. ‘Something‘s either illegal or not illegal.‘
Mansplain (v.) was unlikely to enter any version of the Swansby‘s Encyclopaedic Dictionary.

Winceworth had returned to vexing over why no word had been coined for the specific type of headache he was suffering. The bitter meanness of its fillip, the sludgy electric sense of guilt coupled with its existence as physical retribution for time spent in one‘s cups. A certain lack of memory, as if pain was crowding it out.

Like my handwriting, I was aware that I often looked as though I needed to be tidied away, or ironed, possibly autoclaved. By the time afternoon tugged itself around the clock, both handwriting and I degrade into a big rumpled bundle.

Winceworth blushed, coughed, but words were tumbling out faster than the rhythm of normal speech, almost a splutter, the uncorrected proofs of sentences.

Pip was out at the café where she worked. Of course she was—she was out to her family, she was out at work, out and about, out-and-out out. I suspected she emerged from the womb with little badges on her lapel reading Lavender Menace and 10% is not Enough! Recruit! Recruit! Recruit!

A few minutes later, when calm was restored, the cat Sphinxed on the armrest of a chair with its eyes closed. I gave its spine a nudge with my knuckles. Its body rumbled something about solidarity against my hand.

Leonard and Hungry Paul by Ronan Hession

I feel so much love for this funny, understated novel about gentle people. People who are quiet, kind, and almost invisible to their work colleagues. Gentle people who are not in the least bit ordinary. People who give me hope that perhaps the world will be okay, after all, because there are people like this in it.

She met Peter after he had stopped one day to give her directions to an art exhibition and then invited himself along. They fell in love effortlessly. Their initial chemistry broadened into physics and then biology, until they were blessed with Hungry Paul‘s older sister Grace as their first child.

“How do you make sure you get enough protein?” asked Leonard.
“Ah, protein. I know how you meat eaters stay awake at night worrying about how much protein vegetarians get. Margaret, who works with me, lives on a diet of cigarettes, popcorn and Diet Coke, and the other week she starts giving me the whole protein speech. I just told her not to worry, that silverback gorillas are vegetarian and they get by okay.

There was a section at the back of the shop full of books about history and other deadly serious subjects. It seemed to be some sort of crèche for older men who had been left there while their wives had gone off shopping elsewhere.

Big Girl Small Town by Michelle Gallen
Audiobook read by Nicola Coughlan

Majella O‘Neill is a large young woman in a small town in Northern Ireland. Look no further if you want matter-of-fact sex-positivity (the opposite of romantic) and an unapologetically fat heroine. Majella seems to be on the autism spectrum, which gives her a unique perspective. Each chapter opens with an entry from Majella's long list of things she doesn't like, or her short list of things she likes.

Thanks go to author Ronan Hession for recommending this book in a booktube conversation with Shawn Mooney. (Hession and Cauvery Madhavan made a whole whack of enticing Irish lit suggestions. Watch it here: Shawn the Book Maniac.) 

I adore novels like this, written in the kind of original voice that I won‘t forget. Hearing that voice, peppered with Irish colloquialisms, is even better in audio format. 

9.1: Makeup – Nail Polish: is too heavy–weighing fingers down–looks utterly unnatural when coloured e.g. red, orange, black giving the people the appearance of wearing beetle carapaces on their fingers.

Sometimes Majella thought that she should condense her whole list of things she wasn‘t keen on into a single item: Other People.

Aghybogey was a town in which there was nowhere to hide, so people hid stuff in plain sight.

Exciting Times by Naoishe Dolan
Audiobook read by Aoife McMahon

The author, Naoishe Dolan, is queer and has autism. Reading her debut novel has given me a sense of what it's like to be inside the head of someone who is neurologically different from me.

The three toothbrushes on the cover  gave me pause. A love triangle plot, even a bisexual one, doesn't usually appeal. However, as with the other three novels in this post, I was bewitched by the wit and the central character's unique voice. Ava is 22, teaching English in Hong Kong. She didn't fit in when she was growing up in Dublin, but leaving Ireland hasn't alleviated her insecurities. Sharp-tongued Ava is socially awkward, but her life begins to shift when she falls in love. 

So, you‘re saying it‘s like London?
I dunno. I‘ve never been.
You‘ve never been to London?
Never, I said, pausing long enough to satisfy him that I‘d tried to change this fact about my personal history upon his second query and was very sorry I‘d failed.

He often said he didn‘t meet many people like me, but I didn‘t know if that meant there was necessarily a vacancy for them.

I wondered if Victoria was a real person or three Mitford sisters in a long coat.

With my college brain on, I knew more people lost their jobs when banks like Julian‘s played subprime roulette, but the college brain came with a dial. I turned it up for people I hated and down for people I liked.

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Spotlight on Black Authors

Yes, Black History Month has come and gone, but anytime is a good time to celebrate Black authors. In today's round-up, you will find books, audiobooks, graphic novels and a picture book. The primary audience for these books ranges from kindergarten to middle school, to teen, to adult. No matter your age, if a book interests you, then go ahead and read it! There's fiction, poetry, history, biography, memoir and short stories, starting off with two Canadian titles.

Gutter Child by Jael Richardson

Dystopian coming-of-age in an alternate Earth, with injustices that mirror and amplify our own, including a caste system based on skin colour, and the colonial oppression of Indigenous people. A moving novel with vivid characters and setting, plus a strong plot. Perfect for fans of Malorie Blackman.

“Gutter folk are poor in position, but don‘t nobody do family like us,” she says. “And we don‘t have to be family to be family, if you know what I‘m saying. Wherever we are, we find family.”

A forewarning note from the author: "This book is a work of fiction that explores a perilous world rooted in injustice. As in life, the effects of injustice impact many of the characters. Take care with your heart and your mind as you read. Pause and rest as required. These are difficult times."

Burning Sugar by Cicely Belle Blain

A beautiful collection of fierce, tender poetry that shows how travel, art and childhood layer into the complex life experience of a queer Black femme Canadian poet.

Cicely Belle Blain will be guest writer at the NTNU conference "The Poetics and Ethics of 'Learning With'," on Wednesday March 31, 2021. It will be in webinar format. More information is here.

you don‘t know loneliness until you are the only black gay kid for a million miles

I‘m waiting for new suns
New dawns, new days, new light
that casts shadows only to keep us cool
that makes melanin, loves melanin
New moons, maybe
for new nights
new dreams

I‘ve never given birth / but my stretch marks show this body holds the weight of a thousand lives

the hardest thing about decolonization:
even the air we breathe has been colonized

I‘m back now
the brightest nebula of self-love I‘ve ever been
I rise early to watch faint orange stardust on the

Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619-2019 edited by Ibram X Kendi and Keisha N Blain
Audiobook read by various (many, many: it's a veritable who's who in audio narration)

A vital anthology by 90 Black writers—scholars, activists, journalists, novelists & poets—who have each taken on a 5-year segment in this “Community History of African America” covering 400 years: 1619-2019. The ensemble creation is diverse, spirited and potent. I highly recommend the audiobook edition with its varied cast and special effects between pieces!

While some nations vow to never forget, our American battle has always been about what we allow ourselves to remember.
-Wesley Lowery, The Stono Rebellion

Big Black: Stand at Attica by Frank 'Big Black' Smith, Jared Reinmuth, and Ameziane

An excellent comics format history about a particular example of standing up for justice in America: the Attica prison uprising in 1971. Jared Reinmuth wrote this together with Frank “Big Black” Smith, who was a calm central figure among the inmates at that time. Governor Rockefeller sent in troopers who killed 39 people with 2,000 rounds of expanding bullets. French artist Améziane captures the heartbreaking drama and aftermath in somber tones with lots of deep black. 

My mama always said, “Don‘t trouble trouble till trouble troubles you.”

With the introduction of the archaic Rockefeller drug laws, and for-profit prisons, mass incarceration has exploded. In 1971, New York State laid claim to 12 prisons and 12,500 prisoners. In 2000, when the case was settled, that number had ballooned to 72 prisons and 72,500 prisoners, ravaging poor communities of color and making the Attica prison uprising a story for today. —Daniel Myers, Esq. Attica Brothers Legal Team, 1974-2000

Class Act by Jerry Craft (New Kid #2)

A smart, funny graphic novel that picks up where Jerry Craft‘s award-winning New Kid left off: Drew is back at Riverdale Academy, one of only a few Black students. Friendships, social class disparities, romance, shadeism, and the micro aggressions of racism are just some of the issues Drew juggles in 8th grade. An added layer of enjoyment comes in the form of the double-page spread at the start of each chapter: they are puns referencing other middle grade graphic novels.

Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas (The Hate U Give #0)
Audiobook read by Dion Graham

I expected this would be high quality, based on Angie Thomas‘ previous books. It‘s a prequel, though, so I also expected some been-there-done-that reaction on my part. I planned to listen to 30 minutes before bed. Instead, I listened to 3 hours and even then had to be stern with myself to get some sleep. The next day, I was eager to return to it. It‘s that good. Gripping storytelling and believable characters, plus the excellent audio narration by Dion Graham.

Don‘t let the cuteness fool you. Babies straight up thugs. Don‘t give a damn what you going through.

The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw
Audiobook read by Janina Edwards

The Black women, teens and girls in these short stories aren‘t all church goers, but they are all affected their upbringing within church lady culture. They struggle against societal norms and deal with racism and shadism. My favourites are 'Snowfall,' about a disconnected and lonely lesbian couple who‘ve moved to a northern climate; and 'Jael,' who may live up to her Biblical namesake. 'Peach Cobbler,' too… how can I pick? All nine stories are great! Note: it's in Hoopla at the public library.

You can‘t save me because I‘m not in peril.

In the south, the weather does not hurt you down to your bones, or force you to wake up a half hour earlier to remedy what has been done to your steps, your sidewalk, your driveway, and your car as you slept.

Unfortunately the zeal of the newly converted is bewildering to the children of the newly converted. One Saturday night you've got every blanket in your house draped over your head to drown out the sound of your mother's headboard banging against the bedroom wall as she hollers her soon-to-be-ex-best friend's husband's name. And the next Saturday night, she's snatching the softened deck of playing cards out of your hands because "Games of chance are from the devil."

Exquisite: The Poetry and Life of Gwendolyn Brooks
by Suzanne Slade and Cozbi Cabrera

Gwendolyn Brooks, the first Black person to win the Pulitzer Prize, began writing from a young age. This picture book biography shows how persistence and passion can be rewarded, even if jobs are hard to come by and poetry can‘t be counted on to pay your bills. Cozbi Cabrera‘s joyous artwork in acrylic paint has an airy sense of movement. An exquisite book for all ages.

“I was at my happiest, sitting out on the back porch, to sit there and look out at the western sky
with all those beautiful changing clouds
and just to dream about the future,
which was going to be ecstatically exquisite,
like those clouds.”

She poured her poems into notebooks—
filled them to the very tops.
Her room became a swelling sea of poems.

exquisite clouds exploded in the sunset sky,
because Gwendolyn had won
the greatest prize in poetry!

Surviving the White Gaze: A Memoir by Rebecca Carroll
Audiobook read by the author

Rebecca Carroll takes a clear-eyed look back on her childhood and young adulthood in this moving memoir about growing up biracial in her white adoptive family, and being the only dark-skinned person in her New England community. Immersion in white culture didn‘t protect her from experiencing stark racism. Experiences like being told by one teacher that Black girls aren't pretty, and by another that Black students aren't smart. 

Carroll was in her tweens when she met her manipulative white birth mother. The woman was pretty messed up. She did things like take Carroll out to nightclubs when she was only 11 years old, scolded her for drawing attention to herself, and told her that having a Black biological father and nappy hair did not make her Black. But society saw Carroll differently, and in this memoir she explores how she went about forging her own sense of identity.

The Hired Man by Aminatta Forna

“I guessed that Laura was one of those people who preferred the music of a lie to the discordance of truth.”

When a British family buys an abandoned house in the Croatian countryside in 2007, secrets long suppressed are drawn into the light. The taut prose, vivid characters and superb pacing make a gripping read in this story about the repercussions of civil war.

Fabjan had hired a new girl for the summer, who smiled at all the customers, which here is as disconcerting as if she walked through the streets singing.

Better mind your own business, chief, says my father (in those days he always called me chief). He gave me a shove. Don‘t forget, chief, never ask a question you don‘t have to, that way you‘ll live a lot longer.

How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House by Cherie Jones
Audiobook read by Danielle Vitalis

“Of course she did not leave him. What woman leaves a man for something she is likely to suffer at the hands of any other?”

We see the ugly underbelly of the touristy beaches of Barbados in this gut-wrenching tale of multigenerational family violence, poverty and crime. A visceral, haunting experience. This novel was recently longlisted for the Women's Prize for Fiction.

“A clean house is a clear head” was what Wilma always said.

[…] the men on the street used to watch her like she was the last drop of water in the land of thirsty.