NO MAN IN THE HOUSE by Cecil Foster
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A first novel from Barbadian-born Foster, published first in Canada and now making its US debut: one of those rare books that do indeed celebrate indomitable characters and the resilience of the human spirit. In a momentous year, 1963, while Barbadians begin their bid for independence from Britain, eight-year-old Howard Prescod, the youngest of three brothers left in the care of a grandmother while his parents go to Britain to seek work, embarks upon a different but no less momentous liberation struggle--an escape from poverty. His grandmother stretches the increasingly irregular payments from Howard's father by selling vegetables door to door, but Howard is so poor that he goes to school barefoot and considers a soda a luxury. Unhappy at school, where his poverty dooms him to being regarded as an underachiever, he contemplates a future of low-paying jobs, but new headmaster Mr. Bradshaw, a committed supporter of independence, becomes Howard's mentor. While rival political tensions lead to riots and to squabbles between neighbors, Howard--with Bradshaw's encouragement--prepares for the entrance exam to the best high school on the island. He is olden hungry as he studies, though, because his father has stopped sending money, and his grandmother is struggling even harder to feed her family. Howard takes the exam in less than ideal circumstances--the family situation is grave; Mr. Bradshaw is in political trouble; and the news that Howard is the top student seems just another burden for his grandmother (it means his staying in school rather than working), though there's a suggestion of hope, and Howard is just content ""to enjoy the triumphs of today and to worry about tomorrow another time."" Poverty in all its wrenching details, but it is Howard and his grandmother who touch the heart with the splendor of their boundless courage. A remarkable debut.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1992
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Ballantine