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Goodbye Bay

It is 1963, one year after Independence, and Trinidadians are beginning to wonder what they can expect. But for Anna Bridgemohan, the year is one of crisis. Her mother has just died, bringing to the fore issues about Anna’s parentage, and she has broken up with her boyfriend. Since they both work at the central post office in Port of Spain, she decides to take up a temporary post in the small coastal village of Macaima, remote and declining cocoa country whose simpler rhythms, she thinks, will give her space and time to reflect, away from the pressures of the city and the intense political discussions at work. But neither space nor time is granted; the life of Macaima passes through the post office, and there is no way Anna can hold herself aloof from the stories that the villagers bring. Long before the year is up, Anna has been immersed in an intense seasoning in Macaima that will change her for ever.

Author(s)
Jennifer Rahim
ISBN
978-1-84523-539-0
Pages
250
Price
Classification
Novel
Setting
Trinidad and Tobago
Date published
6 Oct 2022

It is 1963, one year after Independence, and Trinidadians are beginning to wonder what they can expect. But for Anna Bridgemohan, the year is one of crisis. Her mother has just died, bringing to the fore issues about Anna’s parentage, and she has broken up with her boyfriend over his increasing possessiveness and their sharp differences over what she regards as a personal decision. Since Anna and Miles both work at the central post office in Port of Spain, she decides to take up a temporary post in the small coastal village of Macaima, remote and declining cocoa country whose simpler rhythms, she thinks, will give her space and time to reflect, away from the pressures of the city and the intense political discussions at work. But neither space nor time is granted; the life of Macaima passes through the post office, and there is no way Anna can hold herself aloof from the stories that the villagers bring – stories that range from rape and abuse to the need to find homes for abandoned puppies – which prove no less complicated, no less enmeshed in the social, cultural and political issues that divide the nation. Long before the year is up, Anna has been immersed in an intense seasoning in Macaima that will change her for ever.

Macaima is a magical place whose characters, though relayed through Anna’s narrative voice, have an intense and unforgettable individuality of their own. When will the elusive Mr Elton, who is meant to be arranging things for Anna, finally show up? Why is Franco so provocatively surly, and so needing to talk about the absent De Valremys, the local landowning family? And the child Samantha, alias Pixie, why does she bring Anna a mysterious note about a woman – is it Marie or Maria that she has written? –  and why does she speak of a brother, Sam, whom Anna becomes sure does not exist?

Goodbye Bay is simply one of the very best Caribbean novels to have been written, and not just in recent years. It tells a gripping story with room for surprise, humour, tragedy and redemption. It offers us half a dozen brilliant characters, each drawn with exceptional psychological subtlety. And Anna herself – flawed, a little prickly and sometimes too ready to jump to conclusions – is a complex narrator whom we ultimately trust and care for, but who is created in such a way as to offer space for the reader’s perceptions. As an historical novel it asks probing questions about the nature of the means and ends of the project of Independence and its failures with respect to race, class, gender and sexuality. In the characters of Anna and Sam/Samantha, it offers a profoundly sensitive treatment of the fluidities of sexual identity. It is written in a seamless mix of sharply observed realism with moments of rich humour, and of numinous poetic intensity that cannot fail to bring prickles to the spine. Lorna Goodison described Jennifer Rahim’s Curfew Chronicles “as one of the most ambitious books ever attempted by a Caribbean writer”; Goodbye Bay takes that ambition another stage further.   

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Jennifer Rahim

Jennifer Rahim is an award winning Trinidadian writer of poetry, fiction and literary criticism. Her books of fiction include Curfew Chronicles: A Fiction (2017), which won the 2018 overall OCM Bocas prize for Caribbean Literature, and Songster and Other Stories (2007). She has written several poetry collections. Approaching Sabbaths (2009) was awarded a Casa de las Américas Prize in 2010. Redemption Rain: Poems was published in 2011 and Ground Level: Poems in 2014. Sanctuaries of Invention (2021) is her latest poetry collection.

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