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A lyrical novel about the bitter fruits of colonialism in contemporary Jamaica, by a Jamaican-American poet and novelist (Claiming an Identity They Taught Me to Despise; Abeng, The Land of Look Behind). As the novel opens, Clare Savage, a beautiful Jamaican, is heading for an assignation with a band of volunteer guerrillas. Though her light skin marks her as a member of a ruling caste known for its vicious elitism, the reader learns that, having returned home after a long time abroad to reclaim her roots as a black woman, she has dedicated her grandmother's ruined farm to the revolutionaries. The story flashes back over her history, incorporating telling details about Jamaica--snippets of beauty and folklore alternating with the tale of a vicious murder of an upper-class family by a lawn boy who learned madness in ""the Dungle,"" a shantytown of terrible poverty. After that murder, Clare's family was uprooted to America by a caste-conscious father, proud that his family could pass for white. Clare's mother eventually returned home, leaving Clare behind, and died soon after. Clare toyed with graduate work in London, thinking often of her mother and her passion for the homeland. She drifted into an affair with a black American Army deserter; letters from a childhood friend helped her find her true identity; and she headed home. In Jamaica, she finds conditions dire--the hungry have been reduced to stealing lizards from the zoo. Clare joins the revolutionaries, finally riding with them to a terrible showdown. Cliff demonstrates a powerful grasp of the complex tensions that make modern Jamaica a tinderbox, she also delivers a sense of Jamaica's tragedy and beauty in closeup, impressionistic prose that makes for absorbing reading.

Pub Date: July 14th, 1987
ISBN: 0452275695
Publisher: Dutton