Sunday, April 18, 2021

When Life Gives You Mangos, by Kereen Getten

Ever since the last hurricane hit, Clara has had trouble remembering what happened last summer, but she senses it must be a bad thing because of the way other people in the village look at her.  Even her best friend Gaynah doesn't seem to want to be her best friend anymore.  About the only person getting as many sidewise looks as she is getting is her uncle, who lives alone up the hill and who Pastor Brown calls "the devil."

Her coastal village in Jamaica is a quiet and boring place.  The tourists who come to surf it consider it exotic, but nothing ever happens here.  So, when a new girl shows up from America, Clara is excited to show off the sights to her.  She just hopes that she can do so before Gaynah interferes and wins over the girl for herself.

Packed full of culture and local flavor, this debut novel creates a vivid image of life in a poor Jamaican coastal community.  The story it tells is terribly complicated however, involving historical animosities and suppressed regrets, and it compounds it all with a major twist towards the end that reframes most of the story.  That complexity makes this short book worthy of a re-reading or two to get full enjoyment and appreciation.  I did not find it compelling enough to return to, but I did enjoy the insight into Jamaican life.

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