A poetic, loosely plotted tale beginning with an 1824 slave revolt in Trinidad. Herself born in Trinidad (though she now lives in Canada), second-novelist Brand (In Another Place, Not Here, 1997) vividly captures the essence of slavery in the leg irons clapped on Marie-Ursule, the witchy queen of a secret society of slaves. The shackles do physical damage, but their true harm is spiritual, for to be whole Marie-Ursule must be free. By the time the irons are removed, she has gone a little mad. She leads her “regiment” in a final act of defiance, mass suicide, which so distresses the British Admiralty that in another ten years it grudgingly frees the slaves. Marie-Ursule becomes a heroine of the island, both a curse and a great example to her progeny. First among these is Bola, the daughter Marie-Ursule could not bear to take with her to the grave, who lives well into the 20th century. Bola is barely parented by her distraught and often-absent father; she raises herself, becoming an absentminded figure who sits by the rocks of her tiny inlet, Culebra, watching whales and seducing men. No man sticks around, but Bola begets myriad children and grandchildren, who in turn raise themselves and wander the world from nearby Venezuela to Holland, Israel, and Canada. There’s the unpriestly Priest, who becomes a junkie and a gangster in the States; and the intriguing Samuel, of Indian and Trinidadian descent, who wants to fight for England and yet is relegated to hard labor because of his skin color. Finally, there is a modern Bola, a woman living in Culebra, in the family house, searching for an identity. Alice Walker with a Caribbean flavor and believable men: a sort of dream of history.