A warm story of how one man’s transformation can move a people.
In his first of two novels set in rural Jamaica, California resident and Jamaican native McLean (Providence Pond, 2005) weaves an intricate narrative that shifts from the present to post-colonial days in the village of Albion. Related in the style of a rich oral history, the story follows Victor Rawlings, who works for the benefit of a group of engineers planning to destroy a remote, run-down building to make way for a new road. This aging structure turns out to be the â€œBalm Yard and House of God,” built by the now long-deceased archetypal hero, Brother Walk, whose metamorphosis from suppurating, runny-nosed village idiot to the region’s shaman rends the social fabric of the Albion community. McLean’s supple, easy-flowing prose conveys well the slow but rippling class upheaval caused by a disenfranchised individual mysteriously acquiring great healing powers and the resulting wealth and stature. â€œ â€˜Change has captured me,’ ” pronounces Brother Walk as he embarks on his life’s mission to heal those around him. Alone, the depiction of Brother Walk’s growth as he wrestles with his inner demons makes for a classic bildungsroman, but McLean’s detailed attention to the plethora of characters reacting to such a catalytic protagonist adds a provocative sociological element to this already engaging tale. Eventually, all are forced to re-examine long-held values and life choices, and many soon learn to overcome their fears of change. This theme of openness to adaptability runs throughout the tale, and though the message becomes repetitive, the secondary characters’ struggles with it prove refreshingly realistic.
Both well-crafted and revealing, this is an inspiring tale of humanity for readers of all ages.