SECRETS by Kelvin Christopher James


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 A first novel from Trinidadian-born James (the story collection Jumping Ship, 1992) that turns the coming-of-age of a young Caribbean woman into a disturbing fable--one that movingly evokes the loss of innocence in a lush tropical demi-paradise. James again displays his lyrical gifts in a story that makes the island setting as palpable a presence as his protagonist, young Uxann. Uxann, innocent and dutiful, lives with her father, Seyeh, on a small farm outside the local village. Her mother went off with another man, and now Seyeh carefully protects Uxann from worldly influence. Uxann, a diligent and accomplished student at the local convent, delights in studying, taking care of the farm animals, and keeping house for her beloved father. But it is inevitable--her classmates are already falling in love, getting pregnant, and having to drop-out--that Uxann's innocence cannot endure. In a series of sometimes less-than-credible twists and turns of plot, Uxann painfully and then tragically is expelled from Eden into a horrifying world where old secrets are revealed and new disasters wreak havoc. Her father arranges for her school-friend Keah to help with the housework to earn money against a debt her family owes; Uxann's initial reservations are overcome by her pleasure in having company in the house. But sexually experienced Keah, the designated serpent in the story, soon seduces Uxann's father; Uxann finds out, and in despair gets drunk, which leads to her being unknowingly-- and unconvincingly--impregnated by her equally drunk father. A son is born, and Uxann, noting the resemblance to her father, is driven to madness and murder. ``The natural order,'' the routine of the farm, will be her only comfort. A stunning tragedy of carefully calibrated horror and pulsating sensuality that is more a tropical murder of the innocents that a conventional rites-of-passage novel.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-679-42409-1
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Villard
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 1993


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