The modern history of Martinique is embedded in this colorful chronicle (published in French in 1997) of the interrelationships and rivalries of two families whose founders were brought to the island as slaves in 1788. In a tangled narrative spoken by storyteller-healer (“quimboiseur”) Papa Longoué to young Mathieu Béluse, the older man (a wily Scheharazade) tells how his family, who escaped to the hills and lived as outcasts, and the Béluses, whose generations toiled and suffered on various plantations, intermingled, intermarried, fought (often to the death), and were eventually joined together. It’s a heady brew, sometimes sensuously dramatic, as often rhetorically forced and borderline-obscure. Many brilliant moments, though—along with slave rebellions and hurricanes, omnipresent zombies and spirits, and a powerful impression of the human cost of racial oppression, miscegenation, and madness. In its best moments, this turbulent tale becomes something very like a Caribbean Absalom, Absalom!