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 Valremies, 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 discovers does not exist? And how is it that Brenda's revolt makes Anna feel she has been brought back to life?
Goodbye Bay is simply among 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, an undercurrent of the kind of supernatural that flourishes in such a place as Macaima, and passages 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. It dramatises its narrator's dissatisfaction with organised religion, but also explores the possibilities of transcendence through art and the experience of the numinous that can arise in the relationships between humans and the natural world and between each other.