This is the best book I've read this year. Jesmyn Ward's uninhibited storytelling, especially her gift at holding characters (and thus readers) on a pThis is the best book I've read this year. Jesmyn Ward's uninhibited storytelling, especially her gift at holding characters (and thus readers) on a precipice as events unfold and build to a crescendo of emotion is something to be celebrated and admired.
I held my breath again and again, always terrified that something bad was going to happen to the main character, Jojo. ALL of the characters were well developed and the ghosts were as real as the living. The language on every page was so exquisite that I nearly underlined the whole book. (I like to write in books. That's one of the reasons I only read paper books).
I wept through the last two chapters. And to quote Celeste Ng, it really is hard to imagine "a more necessary book for this political era." As witnessed every day in these United States, the south, and the whole nation--for that matter-- was "built on the quicksand of slavery." It won't be swept under a rug. Violence isn't forgotten. Pain and suffering fester. The only way to enact change is to acknowledge how we got where we are. This book is an important reminder that the sins of our fathers can't be brushed aside. On a smaller scale, it's a reminder and often a celebration of the sanctity of family, a call to hold those you love close, and to try to do good in this world. Don't be afraid to imagine yourself in someone else's shoes. We should all do that a little more. ...more
This novel didn't disappoint. It was brilliant. Whitehead investigates the underlying racism that pervades every nook of our society, and he does it bThis novel didn't disappoint. It was brilliant. Whitehead investigates the underlying racism that pervades every nook of our society, and he does it by beginning at the source, the middle passage, and the plantation, where identities and souls were stolen. As the novel expands, so does the underground railroad and history to include attempts to "civilize" slavery, to build new forms of slavery, to suffocate millions of people with notions of separate but equal. I highly recommend this book. I think a semester-long course could be taught on the way Whitehead plays with history and our understanding of The Underground Railroad. ...more
One of my all-time favorite novels. I'm revisiting it because I need a quote from a brilliant female novelist to introduce part four of my third novelOne of my all-time favorite novels. I'm revisiting it because I need a quote from a brilliant female novelist to introduce part four of my third novel. Thanks, Joan Didion. You're amazing. ...more
If you enjoy mythic tales of native islanders, those mixed-blood inhabitants of islands who lost their mixed roots, sand and hearts to American touris If you enjoy mythic tales of native islanders, those mixed-blood inhabitants of islands who lost their mixed roots, sand and hearts to American tourism, this is a must-read for you. The story was a page turner. Oftentimes, I had trouble putting it down. The imagery was beautiful and intoxicating and I looked forward to my time with the characters.
As Madison Smart Belle writes in The Boston Globe, “Yanique has borrowed a few pieces of furniture from the Southern Gothic attic. In place of Faulkner’s preoccupation with miscegenation (sheer nonsense in Yanique’s fictional world), there is incest, a recurring motif ... But is it always a bad thing? The love of half-siblings … begets Youme, whose clubfoot makes her a real-world avatar of the mythical Duene, and whose proud beauty becomes a totem for the islanders’ struggle to take back their own. Small islands can be incestuous places, and incest may stand for a certain way the mind has to fertilize — and fortify — itself. This novel builds its best effects rather slowly, but in the end Yanique succeeds in evoking the panorama of the Virgin Islands in a voice all her own.”
So, if you’re looking for a book of dark myths and legends, I highly recommend Land of Love and Drowning. It is a unique novel about colonialism, racism, and magic. It is a hypnotic, beautifully written debut novel.
Michele Young-Stone is the author of ABOVE US ONLY SKY (3-3-15, Simon and Schuster) and The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors (Crown, 2010). She is currently researching a fourth novel.