Two troubled Trinidadian women discover a surprising connection in this debut novel.
Trinidadian immigrant Bea Clark is a successful history professor living in Boston, but despite her accomplishments, she suffers from crippling depression. Her low self-esteem springs both from her father’s abandonment of the family when she was young and her mother’s near-constant criticism (including typical belittling comments such as “I don't know what I do wrong in this life to deserve a child like you”). After Bea lands in a psychiatric facility following a nervous breakdown, she starts the slow process of rebuilding her life, including shifting her career to clinical psychology. In Trinidad, 15-year-old Tina Ramlogan is also adrift, as her mother, Nalini, refuses to divulge the identity of her father. When Nalini dies in a tragic accident, orphaned Tina is sent to live in Port of Spain with her stern, conservative grandmother, and before long, Tina is acting out in typical teenage fashion. When a twist of fate brings Tina and Bea together, they discover a hidden connection that may help them create a new family—and finally give them both the sense of belonging they long for. Readers will find it a pleasure to watch Bea and Tina evolve as their circumstances change over the courses of their story arcs. Persaud offers an equally enjoyable glimpse into the close-knit, and sometimes-claustrophobic, Trinidadian society. Tina’s first-person narration is lively and humorous, delivered in a distinctive island patois that makes the feisty teen jump off the page. Bea’s sections, written in a more distant third person, lack the same intimacy, and as a result, she’s less distinct—more a combination of traits than a full-fledged person. The shifts in point of view can be jarring at times, and readers may occasionally feel as if two separate novels have been awkwardly stitched together. In the end, however, the characters’ deep pain, particularly Tina’s, comes through in a story that illustrates the cancerous power of long-held family secrets and the relief that can come from finally confronting the truth.
An often colorful novel that refreshingly doesn’t fall back on clichés.