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Black Issues Book Review by Denise M. Doig: 2006-05-01
  • In her debut novel, John is, in one word, superb. Set in the eastern Caribbean island of Dominica, the story expertly weaves folklore and history as it travels between the present and the past. John takes the risk of incorporating many themes into a central story of three generations of women--and she succeeds. She touches on almost every aspect of the African Diaspora: colonization, class struggles, immigration, internalized racism, ancestral traditions and religion, to name a few.
    The reader travels back to the early 20th century, when indigenous people were still visible in the Caribbean and when the children of African slaves freely held onto their traditions. The turning point in the story is the year 1947. After World War II, old customs were disappearing and modernism was on the rise, which is exactly what happens halfway through the novel. John's description of a tumultuous scene during jouvert, the morning before the official start of Carnival, captures these changes perfectly; the center of this scene irrevocably affects the lives of Iris, Matilda and the unborn Lillian.
    At the core of the novel is Lillian's journey to separate the fact from the fiction surrounding that eventful night. She leaves home at age 14 and is tormented by half-truths and secrets, and by the mystery surrounding the deaths of Iris and Matilda. After spending 20 years in the United States, she returns to unravel the mystery. The reader is kept in the dark until the very end when all the pieces come together.
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