The novel returns to the aftermath of the trial of Beatrice Salandy and the villagers of Rosehill on the island of Santabella first met in Flanaganís novel You Alone Are Dancing. Though Beatrice is acquitted to the joy of the village, it is clear that nothing has changed. Though Santabella has been independent for several decades, only the new Black ruling class has benefited. Most Santabellans struggle to scratch a living, find adequate schools, healthcare or even reliable basic services. Cynical corruption flourishes and the queues to get visas to escape to America grow ever longer and more desperate. For Beatrice there is the recognition that Sonny, the man she loved, has wholly abandoned her, settled in the USA with a white American wife.
But there is one new element: a rapidly growing radical Muslim movement with a growing appeal to the poor Black people of Santabella with their welfare schemes, grass-roots campaigning and air of incorruptibility. And there is the Haji, the charismatic leader of movement who combines a media-savvy native wit, a well-developed mystique and a steely control over his group. Even Beatrice is impressed. Between the Mosque, regularly raided for arms by the police and army and Rosehill is Abdul, whose aunt lives in the village and who is the Hajiís second in command. It is Abdul, decent serious Abdul, who is one of the main narrative voices in the novel. But does his sincerity go with honesty about the violent coup that the Haji plans? Abdulís becomes a fascinatingly unreliable voice, part revealer, part concealer of the truth.
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Trinidad born Brenda Flanagan teaches creative writing, Caribbean and African American Literatures at Davidson College, North Carolina. She is also a United States cultural ambassador, and has served in Kazakstan, Chad and Panama.