TREE OF LIFE by Maryse Conde

TREE OF LIFE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

 An impressionistic saga from CondÇ (see above)--the story of a Caribbean family whose history is as much their own as it is their native island's. When the narrator's forebear, Albert Louis, decides to go to Panama to make his fortune building the canal rather than stay at home cutting sugar like all his fellow blacks, he begins the ascendancy of the Louis family--a family that over the years will be divided by color (not just black and white but all the shades in between), money, and politics. In Panama, Albert finds money but not a fortune, encounters racial prejudice, learns about Marcus Garvey, and marries a Jamaican who dies giving birth to son Bert. Back home in Guadeloupe, the embittered father prospers in business but is disliked for his meanness and surly disposition. A second marriage follows, and the narrator's grandfather, the ugly but hard-working Jacob, is born. Births and deaths occur at a clip; the dead advise the living in dreams; and characters travel to New York, where more is learned of Garvey and black politics, and to France, where Bert, disowned because of his marriage to a white woman, commits suicide. Then on to Bert's niece, Jacob's daughter, pampered and indulged ThÇcla, who moves to France pregnant with the narrator, whom she leaves with a white family. Abandoned by her black lover, ThÇcla marries a white doctor, takes a side trip to New York, where she has an affair with a Malcolm X follower; goes to Jamaica, this time with daughter and new lover in tow; and then finally returns to her white husband in Paris, leaving daughter with grandfather and the obligation to tell ``the story of very ordinary people who in their own way had nonetheless made blood flow.'' Vivid writing, and certainly wide-ranging, though sometimes the fast pace leads to skimping on the plot. Still, a very readable story of an unfamiliar territory.

Pub Date: Sept. 7th, 1992
ISBN: 0-345-36074-5
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Ballantine
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 1992




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