Mera offers a debut collection of stories that highlight social issues in the fictional small town of Little River.
The author tightly intertwines the threads uniting a community over the course of 17 tales, told from diverse viewpoints. In stories shared verbally between characters, readers meet various townspeople, including Judy, a woman sent to a foster family as a child slave when she was 10; Terence Pierre, a woman forced to marry Maximilian Makir, the father of her unborn child; and Ronald Jean-Philip, a father trying to save his teenage son from a prison sentence. Mera uses these characters to address real-life challenges of the developing world, such as poor health, lack of sanitation services, child abandonment, and the legacy of slavery. Mystical and spiritual elements abound, as when a preacher walks through town asking each downtrodden resident about his or her favorite miracle from the Bible, then provides solutions to their problems; in other tales, residents are turned into zombies by voodoo priests and a midwife is beaten after being deemed a sorceress. Throughout, characters reveal long-kept secrets, such as a sexual assault, the existence of a secret son, and the abduction of an infant twin. Family trees grown thornier with each character’s confession; in one instance, a couple must be stopped from marrying because they’re revealed to be half siblings. Mera provides vivid details of life in Little River in several passages: “almost everybody was awake by six a.m.—The bread men, the children selling ground coffee, the ladies with their baskets of vegetables, fruits, and all kinds of goods…at six p.m., you would hear the voodoo drumbeats.” Sections on child slavery provide frank descriptions of mistreatment. But there’s often more telling than showing in this collection, with some vague descriptions, such as “the family was in a rage.” Characters also often summarize their lives in long blocks of dialogue, with little action taking place in the present moment.
A series of gossipy conversations with some engaging descriptions, but its uneven prose may fail to engage readers.