A 14-year-old girl’s journey from beach home to city, from family to strangers, from idealism to realism, and from girlhood to womanhood.
Estrella Thompson is a girl on the move. Accused of being a “curse” on the fishing beach where she lives, she huffily takes leave of her grandfather and soon-to-be-dead grandmother to seek out urban life inland. Driven by a love of reading and a desire to push beyond the limitations of her childhood experience on a Jamaica-like island called San Carlos, she leaves her home in disgust because “Nobody ain’t care to know ‘bout nothing.” She constructs an idealized image of what awaits her, including the long-desired “yellow satin pumps” of the title, but must constantly make finely calibrated adjustments to her vision. Along the way she runs into thieves, sweet-talkers, soldiers and frauds. (One man she meets lived for a time in Paris, an incandescent city of magic to Estrella—and then later, he explains, “moved to France.” Another would-be seducer introduces himself as Simón Bolívar.) She confronts both the subtleties and crudities of racism. She yields up her body but never her feistiness. And always she’s looking, looking—for a better life, for occasions to “try new things. Test limits.” Her native dialect is Sancoche, a poetic patois of clipped speech and emphatic double (and triple) negatives. While the story takes place in 1942, the war setting is intrinsic neither to plot nor to character, for there’s something timeless about Estrella’s yearning for a better life. Her journey to Seville, the capital of San Carlos, is larded with more danger than even she imagined possible. Eventually she does make it to the city and meets St. William Rawle, a savior of sorts; ultimately her life reaches precarious equilibrium rather than happiness.
From Channer, (Waiting in Vain, 1998, etc.), a fairy-tale novella of betrayal and hope.