A memoir about the life of Irish immigrants in Jamaica from the 1950s to the 1980s.
O’Brien’s debut describes growing up in Jamaica as an Irish immigrant and focuses on the experiences of her parents, Tom and Maeve, who left behind their homeland to make a new life. The island was a big change for the pair, and Maeve especially experienced both culture and climate shock. While Maeve was at home with their two children, Tom went off to work and then spent his evenings at the golf club. Tom liked drink and women and enjoyed both liberally. The author notes how Maeve’s friendships with other women helped to give her strength, and though she never divorced her philandering husband, she did eventually find ways to gain power and control in her marriage and went on to spend her later years in her own apartment in Houston not far from her daughter and grandchildren. O’Brien recounts how political changes in Jamaica led to economic troubles and widespread violence in the 1970s through the 1990s. She recounts how friends and family members were all victims. These events convinced the author to apply for a U.S. green card and immigrate to Houston. O’Brien’s depictions of day-to-day life in Jamaica bring the island and its inhabitants to life. Her narrative provides a good balance of humor and heart. While some may disagree with the conclusions O’Brien draws about Jamaica’s political situation, she does preface the book with a disclaimer and later points out that such conclusions come from her own firsthand experiences and observations. The author shies away from baring her soul in this memoir; the most personal stories concern two separate cases of sexual harassment she experienced on the island. Instead, she tries to make sense of her parents’ troubled marriage against the backdrop of the island paradise, which she still thinks of as home.
This memoir zips along and is as much about the personal difficulties faced by a midcentury homemaker as it is about the island that became her home.