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The Last Warner Woman

3.67 of 5 stars 3.67  ·  rating details  ·  150 ratings  ·  52 reviews
Adamine Bustamante is born in one of Jamaica's last leper colonies. When Adamine grows up, she discovers she has the gift of "warning": the power to protect, inspire, and terrify. But when she is sent to live in England, her prophecies of impending disaster are met with a different kind of fear—people think she is insane and lock her away in a mental hospital. Now an older ...more
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published July 1st 2010 by Weidenfeld & Nicolson
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Room by Emma DonoghueThe Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David MitchellSkippy Dies by Paul MurrayLittle Hands Clapping by Dan RhodesStarted Early, Took My Dog by Kate Atkinson
Not the Booker Prize 2010
71st out of 86 books — 159 voters
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Beautiful Book Cover Design
51st out of 98 books — 61 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 565)
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MJ Nicholls
A short novel about a Jamaican leper colony and the “warner” (seer) who worked there before leaving for England, where she was institutionalised after a bad arranged marriage. I read this for tedious personal reasons and didn’t expect from the cover to be won over. The storytelling style is largely simple, the tone emotionally literary in a mainstream way, and although the slight meta element kept me interested (the narrator is a writer writing the book we’re reading who becomes embroiled in the ...more
Emily Crowe
I met Kei Miller in January of this year at Winter Institute down in New Orleans, where we chatted awhile about Caribbean literature. I wish I had been bright enough at the time to remember that he had written The Same Earth, a book I have at home on my bedside table, but alas, no. He signed an ARC of The Last Warner Woman for me and I've been saving it to read on my trip ever since.

"Once upon a time there was a leper colony in Jamaica." Thus begins this dual-narrative story of Adamine Bustamant
...more
Katharine Holden
Very well worth reading. The last quarter of the novel falls apart with the author introducing yet another plot point/layer of ugliness (Bruce, his mother, the flowers, the evil he does) that is not only hard to believe, but is just one plot point too many too late in the novel. But The Last Warner Woman is a remarkable piece of writing up to that point. I will never forget the bit about getting stuck with whatever name or version of your name that the crabby/snooty nurse in the poor part of tow ...more
Nea
While parts of this book were hard to follow due to the format and shifts in narration, there was something so fascinating about the "Warner" known as Adamine Bustamante. I like the way the author weaved together the realities of "old world" spirituality and metaphysics with "new world" beliefs and outlooks on superstition. From Jamaica to England, leper colony to madhouse, Adamine's life takes the reader on a journey that touches every extreme.
Laurie
Fascinating... Favorite quote from book: "In its final moments it may feel as if the book is holding you open. It may feel as if the book's arms are spread wide, as if to embrace whoever has been holding it."

I always felt as if I was inside the mind of the characters



Lisa
The Last Warner Woman by Kei Miller was one of those books that I stumbled on at the library when I was there to pick up something else. It was face out on the shelves, and I was attracted by the cover art by Delphine Lebourgeois. The author’s first name made me pick it up because I was curious about what culture the name came from, and when I read the blurb, it seemed to me that I hadn’t read any books set in Jamaica, and so I took it home. (Actually, I had, I’d read Wide Sargasso Sea, but I’d ...more
Susie
I gave this book 4.5/5 stars on my blog, InsatiableBooksluts.com. (A digital ARC was provided by Coffee House Press)

Review excerpt:

"The story switches between a cool retelling by Mr. Writer Man, as Adamine calls him, and her own testimony of her life, which she sends nightly into the wind. Mystery after mystery about Pearline, Adamine, the lepers, and even Mr. Writer Man unfold easily, blooming with elegant timing and driving the story forward. The changing points of view presented a small speed
...more
Stephanie
This was an interesting story, from leper colony to asylum. I wish it were a book club book because it would be really good for discussion. This is a book where I can't tell yet how much I might have liked it, thus the 3 stars and possibly a change up to 4. The upgrade happens when I can't stop talking about a book I have read to other people and we will see if that happens. Excellent characters and story plot throughout I am just not sure if this is my kind of book yet or not. SEE? All this dil ...more
Marvin
This is a very hard story to summarize. It's the story of a woman who is born in a Jamaican leper colony and whose mother dies in childbirth. She eventually joins a "Revival" sect (though I probably should not use this term; she points out that if it's led by men, we call it religion, but if it's led by women we call it a sect) and becomes a sort of prophet, who "warns" of bad things to come. This woman narrates only small portions of the story. It is mostly told by "Mr. Writer Man," to whom she ...more
Alice
The author was able to tell two stories that were intertwined but for very different points of view. It was listening to someone tell a story about a person and their life, while the subject of the story was there to say "no it really happened like this".

It was the difference of what one person hears and what actually happened and how the stories merge into one ending but from different starting points.
Mary
You know you will like a book that starts"Once upon a time there was a leper colony in Jamaica".
It is a story told by Adamine Bustamante. She says she was born in a leper colony in Jamaica.

When Adamine was about 16 years old, she left the colony and its inhabitants. She felt a call
of the Spirit and joined a Revival sect. Adamine was known as a "seer". She was able to give
warnings of impending danger. In Jamaica, this was accepted as part of religion.

Adamine left Jamaica to live in England. Her
...more
Randy Stauffer
The narrative nicely transforms the identity of the two narrators into unexpected allies. Each turn of the story reveals a new attribute to the lives playing out their quest for knowledge for one and their desire to be for the other. The story ends in a way that leaves you both satisfied and longing for more.
Angelic
Wow. Wonderfully weaved story. Kei Miller is a master story-teller. This book started a little slow for me, but I think it was just me. I don't usually enjoy family saga-type stories, they are usually too long, but this book isn't encyclopedic at all. its beautiful and honest and heartbreaking and poetic and inspiring!

Here's an excerpt:
Every book must begin somewhere, but it begins in different places for different people. If you are the reader, then things get going at chapter one, the first
...more
Marie
I grew up in the Jamaican culture described in this book...or rather, on the outskirts of it. Reading the language was like walking on a familiar road.

The story is told by two different storytellers, and it's done in a way that while I thought that one version is the true version, I was never too sure. I think there were some great ways of demonstrating a way of using the second person, in which the 'you' wasn't the reader, but the teller of the tale. That was fantastic.

All the storylines were w
...more
DubaiReader
An elongated short story.

Oh dear, this book was such a disappointment. The narrative had barely enough content for a short story and even that was repeated in several versions. We were subjected to one version by Adamine Bustamante, the Warner Woman herself and then another, boringly similar version, by the writer who was apparently narrating her story.
I had hoped for much more detail and character analysis of the inhabitants of the leper colony but they were merely a passing phase.

The story sta
...more
Liz
This seems to me to be a book about truth, where the truth lies, and what truth means. One narrator (described disparagingly by the other narrator as "the writer-man") seems to be telling the story in linear fashion - a "proper" story. His efforts are derailed when the Warner woman, the subject of the story, discovers what he's up to and begins telling the story her own way. Each narrator struggles to tell their version, ricocheting off each other's words, until finally they collide, revealing - ...more
Leyen
At first, I was very confused as to what this story was about. There were several points in this book where I almost stopped reading, but continued to plow on. And I was glad because the last two chapters were probably the deal breakers for me. The mystery slowly unraveled and I was bombarded with the answers, with the why, and in chronological order, too! Throughout the story, the narration switches from the writer to the main character, Adamine. We're given her background and the myths about W ...more
Becky
This is stylistically the best book I've read in years. The main storyline focuses on a woman who was born in a leper colony in Jamaica because her mother was the caretaker there. As she grows, the main character learns she has special powers of prophecy, and is labelled "a warner woman" because of her talent. As the story continues, she eventually ends up in England and is institutionalized, as her powers are now seen as mental illness.

The reason the book is so wonderful, is because it is many
...more
Laurie
Wonderful. I read it once, then promptly re-read it. If it didn't belong to the library and needed returning, I'd probably read it again (and again).

It's a tale with two 'tracks' into it: that of the Warner Woman, now old and angry, and the Writer Man, who documents her story, but changes what she says in subtle and unsubtle ways. Other voices come into the tale when the Writer Man interviews people who knew the Warner Woman in her younger days, or people who know the places and people (particul
...more
Ilyhana Kennedy
Three and a half stars.
This book is like a patchwork quilt of small scenarios that make a covering eventually when finally stitched together.
The patchworking tends to disrupt any developing sense of connection with the central characters so that I often felt that the essence of the book was slipping away from me.
I liked the story being told in what I assume is creole for the main character, and the contrast of the language of the "writer man".
It's not what anyone would call a hopeful story. Rath
...more
Deangela
I struggled through this book and often wanted to give up. The first and second sections was long and drawn out. At times I didn't know which character was speaking, which was a distraction.

as soon as you start to enjoy it, it's over!

Glad I'm finished.
Judy
It took me a while to figure out the title of this book, and not long after I did, it was over, leaving me wanting a LOT more information and development than was given. The main character was born to a worker in a Jamaican leper colony who died giving birth to her. As she grows up, she discovers she has the gift of "warning," or prophesying what will happen to a person in the future. She is respected in Jamaica, but when she is sent to England, she is locked up in the loony bin. Her life in Eng ...more
Ruth
Very interesting novel from a Jamaican author
Maria Joseph Books
Wow. Wonderfully weaved story. Kei Miller is a master story-teller. This book started a little slow for me, but I think it was just me. I don't usually enjoy family saga-type stories, they are usually too long, but this book isn't encyclopedic at all. its beautiful and honest and heartbreaking and poetic and inspiring!
Tiffany
a novel with rhythm
Iejones
Different than my usual. I enjoyed language it was musical. I also enjoyed the folk culture and character development. The alternate voicing was a bit hard to follow - and I need to know if this period in Jamaican history really happened. Funny part the government records office - having done work in Caribbean archives - I had to laugh. A quick and thought provoking read - helped me adjust my volume of empathy.
World Literature Today
"The Last Warner Woman features compelling settings, masterful story-tellers, a mystery, colorful characters, and language that resonates with beauty." - Adele S. Newson-Horst, Morgan State University

This book was reviewed in the May/June 2012 issue of World Literature Today. Read the full review by visiting our website: http://worldliteraturetoday.com/2012/...
Leah Wicks


An interesting method of writing, beautifully written. The story is told from various characters' perspectives and I wasn't always sure who was speaking. Beautiful imagery in the way the story is told. Kept me guessing about what was really going on, and, as with any story, the teller believes they know the truth...not always the case. Nicely done.
Beth
I wanted to like this book because it came highly recommended, but I was disappointed. I found the story disjointed and difficult to follow and the characters didn't draw me in. I did listen to this book, so I do wonder if the narration, which was done with an appropriate Caribbean accent, was what caused me to not enjoy the book.
Sue
This is a captivating story of Adamine Bustamante and is told in several different voices. While plenty of novels employ different voices to tell a story, this novel does so in a truly unique way. Gradually, the tale reveals itself to you and it becomes clear that you are reading the work of a remarkable story teller.
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Kei Miller was born in Jamaica in 1978. He read English at the University of the West Indies and completed an MA in Creative Writing at Manchester Metropolitan University. His work has appeared in The Caribbean Writer, Snow Monkey, Caribbean Beat and Obsydian III. His first collection of short fiction, The Fear of Stones, was short-listed in 2007 for the Commonwealth Writers First Book Prize. His ...more
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“Maybe you shake your head, but let me learn a lesson right now: plenty knowledge is in this world. Enough knowledge that you can pick and refuse. And if you want, you can refuse to know plenty things, don't care how true those things be. I know things you does not know, and things you will never know. And it is sake of that - sake of this knowledge - that people have looked on me and called me old fool or crazy. They treat me like I is retarded. Imagine that. I is the idiot because I know what they don't know.” 0 likes
“After all, don't care how you want to sit there and deny the knowledge of River Mumma sitting on her rock - don't care how you deny the knowledge of fallen angels who can jump into your body as they please, or the knowledge of ancestors who sit beside your bed and watch when they not harkening on to the sounds of drumming - don't care how you deny any of it, all of it is still true. All of them things still exist, because them do not need the permission of your belief.” 0 likes
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