Email this review


Ghanian Laing's second novel (Search Sweet Country, 1987) is stunningly original and often stylistically brilliant--but the brilliance and originality too often founder in a bewildering profusion of characters, ideas, and events. Set in Ghana and Scotland, the tale is as much an adventure-filled epic journey as a search for the meaning of life. The inhabitants of Tukwan, a town invisible to the rest of the country, are immortal, living lives rich in contradiction and absurdity. To be able to live there, ""everyone has to have one element of originality before he or she could continue to stay in the town."" But like those in their sister town, Levensvale, in the ""nonmango"" country of Scotland--a town as magical as Tukwan--some of the townspeople feel the need for new ideas and experiences, even if it means losing their immortality. When Pokuaa, a contractress--""a kind buy-and-sell woman""--comes back from Levensvale with two airplanes, and contracts for several business ventures there, the leading men and women of the town decide to fly back with her to Levensdale--""a journey they hoped would lead to prosperity."" The planes--perfumed every morning with frangipani lavender--take off with the good and bad twins, the keeper of the Shrine and his vulture, the ""superbumptious"" seller of crabs, and others as colorful. Sacred ducks fly alongside to help with the navigation on the enchanted flight. Both Tukwan and Levensvale are irrevocably altered by the visit: both lose their invisibility and immortality, but ""an amazing joy held most of them together."" As in any great myth, the search for knowledge and change has a price, but there is the compensating ""joy of multi-centered dimensions,"" the freedom to choose to live or die. Rich in incident, African mythology, vivid characters--sometimes a dozen appear on one page--and wordplay, the novel demands close reading. No easy read, but Laing is a promising talent.

Pub Date: May 23rd, 1990
Publisher: Morrow