Set on the Caribbean island of Paz (not a million miles from Grenada), this is a book that creates and occupies a space between epic poetry and the novel in the way its sequence of interludes bring into focus the lives of family and community through time – and in the confinements of small island space. It moves from the days of slavery through to the 1980s, through the difficult inheritance of one family – or rather the disinheritance of those in the family born illegitimate. Throughout, the novel conveys a powerful sense of place, of both attachment and confinement, of the meaning of land in relation to the island’s smallness, and the ever-present danger of the communal violence that can spring from the pressures of confinement. Through the novel comes the voice of three generations of the women the islanders know as Carib, warner women, whose prophecies of disaster are dismissed as madness, but who have an unerring sense of what is to come. Signalled in her title, Merle Collins has much to say about the nature of memory and the fatal nature of amnesia when it comes to the lessons of the past. Whilst the book is written in the continuing shadow of Grenada’s catastrophe of 1983, it signals hope in small things: in the courage of women like Mamag who will not be silenced; in the reconciliation between father and son that manages to cross the incomprehension between generations; and the capacity of a young man to confront his innermost fears.
With an introduction by the distinguished Canadian novelist, Douglas Glover.