Lovelace (The Dragon Can’t Dance, 1998, etc.) describes with wry sympathy people in his native Trinidad who dream big, often fail, but live to the full.
Thirteen stories introduce characters who often appear more than once as they try either to avoid or embrace changes in their lives. In the title piece, a tale of family love, narrator Travey recalls how his hair was cut short every third Sunday at his mother Pearl’s insistence by an itinerant barber, and how that embarrassing haircut was responsible for his own rite of passage, when the shy scholarly boy successfully fought a school bully who teased Travey about his hair. “The Fire Eater’s Journey,” “The Coward,” and “The Fire Eater’s Return” chart the bumpy course of Blues, a villager with little schooling and no trade skills but a tender heart, who dreams of taking his fire-eating and strongman show to England. Blues watches a black power rally and, affected by their talk of injustice, is tempted to join, but doesn’t; he tells a journalist friend that he’s frightened he might kill somebody. In the third story, the same journalist recounts lending Blues the money he said he needed to save his life, but the loan was not enough to prevent his gruesome end. In other notable tales: a middle-aged woman realizes how much she has sacrificed by serving the local community (“Call Me ‘Miss Ross’ for Now”); a man who sees “too much hell in Trinidad” tries and fails to immigrate to the US, but does so with class (“Joebell and America”); and a fearful woman’s husband realizes it’s better for his peace of mind to replace the bicycle pumps that thieves keep stealing than to succumb to fear like hers (“George and the Bicycle Pump”).
Quiet stories, filled with the vivid sounds and sights of village life, that resonate with empathy and perception.