BROWN GIRL IN THE RING by Nalo Hopkinson

BROWN GIRL IN THE RING

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Winner of the publisher’s First Novel Contest (out of nearly 1,000 entries), Hopkinson’s debut evokes Afro-Caribbean magic against a near-future Toronto damaged by riots and neglect and abandoned by all but the most desperate inhabitants. The inner city is run by ruthless gangster Rudy Sheldon and his “posse.” Ti-Jeanne Hunter lives with her herbalist grandmother, Mami, and her unnamed child (by Tony, one of Rudy’s mob). Weak, untrustworthy Tony was fired from his hospital job because of his drug addiction. Now, Canada’s premier, Catharine Uttley, has an ailing heart, and, for overwhelming political reasons, any replacement organ must come from a human donor. Word filters down to Rudy to supply the heart, and Tony gets the job: If he can’t find a donor quickly, he’ll have to murder someone and take the heart. Later, empty-handed and terrified of Rudy’s lieutenant, Crack Monkey, Tony pleads for Mami to work magic and help him get out of the city undetected. Since Ti-Jeanne can’t resist Tony’s blandishments, Mami reluctantly agrees. Unfortunately, Rudy also commands powerful “obeah”: Trapped in his “duppy bowl” is a ravening spirit that will do his bidding when he feeds it blood. Tony, meanwhile, finds that Mami would be a compatible donor for the heart, and, unable to escape Rudy, he bashes in Mami’s head and calls the paramedics. Ti-Jeanne learns that Rudy’s captive spirit is her mother--and the only way to free her and defeat Rudy is to smash the bowl. A splendid if often gruesome debut, superbly plotted and redolent of the rhythms of Afro-Caribbean speech: “You just don’t let she go, or I go zap the both of allyou one time.”

Pub Date: July 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-446-67433-8
Page count: 256pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 1998




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