I first got turned on to this book from Rebecca at BookRiot.com. She said she read it in delicious little sips and that it was full of magic and myth. I couldn’t resist that sort of exuberance – the promise of a gorgeously-written, slightly fantastical world. And so I requested this one for review and wasn’t disappointed. The book is finely executed and infused with all the twang and charm of the Caribbean. It wasn’t what I was expecting, but that turned out to be a wholly refreshing thing.
I’ll come right out and say this for the sake of those who need to know it: incest is a big part of the plot – father/daughter and half-brother/half-sister. Normally, that sort of thing makes me squeamish, but here…though it was incest, I didn’t see it like that, really. Perhaps this is owing to the strength of Yanique’s writing. She makes you feel like these are simply cases of forbidden love. Love that cannot be permitted, certainly, but still love that is valid and true and strong. I didn’t feel as if the half-siblings were that to eachother – more like they were thwarted romantic partners, who, if they could be together, would do very well with eachother. The same goes for the feelings sprouting up between father and daughter -rather than a gross abomination, they felt like idolation taken a bit too far.
Why does Yanique paint her situations this way? Why does she makes us feel the pull of her characters’ connections, even as they are entirely wrong for eachother? I think because she wants us to think about something larger than the appropriateness of a relationship. What about when you’re in the thing already – because objectified, being romanticized – what then? Sometimes, in life, it is too late to turn back, you’ve already gotten swept up in the current or swayed by a false impression. It’s already happened. So what do you make of the future remaining?
This book is about otherness, it’s about colonization and belonging, desire and freedom – and love in its many forms. Yanique draws her characters with empathy and tenderness rather than the shame and disgust you’d expect given the subject matter. And that is what makes this such an interesting read. It’s not often my perspective is broadened to this degree – so that I see the struggle above all things. Yanique should be praised for not only taking a risk but doing so beautifully – with bravery and with grace.
Many thanks to Riverhead Books for my advance reader’s copy!