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The Last Warner Woman

3.75  ·  Rating details ·  251 Ratings  ·  69 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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MJ Nicholls
Feb 02, 2013 rated it it was ok
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
Missy J
This year, one of my book club is spending an entire year exploring Jamaican literature. We are starting the journey with Kei Miller's poetry and this work of fiction, The Last Warner Woman.

I wasn't able to find Miller's poetry in my local library, but I managed to watch some Youtube videos of Miller reading out his poems. He puts on quite a show; his melodious voice, expressive recital and ability to switch between Jamaican patois and English are very praise-worthy. I was very excited to read o
Emily Crowe
Jun 23, 2012 rated it liked it
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
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.
Apr 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: adult-fiction
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

Katharine Holden
Aug 11, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Rachel Sargeant
Aug 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is a sparkling book which reminded me of the magical realism of Isabel Allende's The House of the Spirits. But, whereas that novel is set against a historical/political backdrop, The Last Warner Woman felt much more like a borderless/cross-cultural story of the exploitation of women and the abuse of the vulnerable.
The author adopts a most unusual structure for the novel and gives his language a rhythm and syntax that makes it seem authentically Jamaican. It is a very clever writer indeed th
James F
Jan 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
I read this and another book (a collection of poetry) by Miller for a Goodreads group that is doing Jamaican literature this year. The novel is quite good, but at first I found it rather strange; it wasn't until I got almost to the end that I suddenly realized one of the keys to understanding it. I won't explain that because it might be a spoiler; just say that it's a very postmodernist technique.
Jun 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a miraculous book that amazes the reader all the way through. It follows a woman who is born in a small leper colony in a shanty town in Jamaica. She spends time in a revival cult, where she becomes powerful and respected due to her ability to warn people about the future (hence the name, warner woman). She is more or less sold into marriage in the UK to another Jamaican. From here, she is locked up in an insane asylum.

The book discusses a lot of issues -- a woman's status in the Caribbe
Sep 10, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is written in two main voices--that of a Jamaican born and raised woman and that of a Writer Man who is ferreting out her life story. Why he's doing so becomes evident. Besides the double viewpoint, there also is a double setting--Jamaica for the first fifteen years of Adamine Bustamante's life and England from then until her old age. She's presumably a fictional character though the diaspora in which she participated is part of history.

The early half opens with Adamine's mother and a
May 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: jamaica
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
I gave this book 4.5/5 stars on my blog, (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
Aug 19, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Apr 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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.
Randy Stauffer
Apr 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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.
Gina Whitlock
Sep 01, 2016 rated it liked it
This would be a good book for a discussion because the truth is so elusive. I thought the writing was excellent.
Feb 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Kei Miller is a magician and seer. His ability to render the mysticism of Jamaican folk shines bright here. He is able to evoke the minutia- smells, sounds, tastes- of the revival/ praise shout against the back drop of a so-called rational mind.
Kei Miller's conjuring is a keen to the Earl Lovelace's SALT and Toni Morrison's Beloved.
Jun 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: jorden-runt
When I was at the bookstore, this book fell on my head. I picked it up, read the blurb and the first page, and decided that this probably is a book for me. It was indeed very interesting and I had a hard time putting it down. It had a few twists and it was an interesting discussion on local beliefs versus madness and what makes a story true.
Jan 07, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 21, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: religion
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
Nov 06, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: vine, 2010
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
Dec 15, 2016 rated it liked it
I have such a complicated relationship with this book.

When I read the premise, I thought I'd love it. It's about a warner woman from Jamaica, someone who prophesies earthquakes, floods and other catastrophes. It's about a man who's writing her story and who has the right to tell that story? Who do our stories belong to?

I really enjoyed parts of the book but the narration style (which was very intentional) was confusing and I often had to reread sections.

I loved some of the writer's choices and
Aug 24, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Jun 09, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Jun 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: for-fun
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
Oct 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Ilyhana Kennedy
Apr 06, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Min Zha
Feb 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
A story about a Warner Woman, from Jamaica to the U.K. One story, two story-tellers. The double narratives are well weaved together and creates suspense and curiosity. Fiction and meta-fiction.

“There is always some madness in love. But there is also always some reason in madness.”-Nietzsche.

A good read.
Jan 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: re-read
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
Just A. Bean
Feb 13, 2016 rated it liked it
I really liked the first two thirds. We have two unreliable narrators more or less in conflict over how to tell a story, and it's in conversation with literary conventions and how men write women's lives, and romanticising the past in different ways, and there's this great tension between them. But then the last third the mystery is solved, and the narrators figure out what each other is doing and come to terms, and the tension just sort of seeps out of the book.

It's still a good read, in the en
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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.” 2 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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