IT BEGINS WITH TEARS by Opal Palmer Adisa


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 A debut novel offers a vibrant slice of Jamaican life shaped by old legends and timeless passions. Paralleling the tales of the men and women who live in Kristoff village is a folkloric account of life in an eternal version of the same village. There, She-Devil and Devil quarrel, make up, are visited by their family, and with help from God and the Angels prepare a wedding for their son. Altogether, their lives are not very different from those in Kristoff village: Husbands exasperate, wives are jealous, and children don't visit as much as they should. Down in real-time Kristoff, meanwhile, the spirits are as close at hand as the lush vegetation and bright sunshine and, through medicine women like Miss Cotton, often warn of trouble to come. And trouble is certainly on the way as Monica, who'd run away from the village when she was 14 because her parents were too strict, has decided to retire from prostitution and come back home. Still beautiful and sexy, though, she's not ready to settle down, and her flirtations with other women's husbands, not to mention her affair with the married Desmond, have horrific repercussions. Three angry wives devise a brutal punishment for her, for which they in turn are painfully punished. Villagers like Miss Cotton and Beryl welcome Rupert's African-American bride Angela, who, adopted by whites, also has a story to tell; they help Arnelle give birth and reconcile with Valrie, whose husband Godfree is the father of her child; and they mourn the dead. While the Devil family celebrates, Kristoff's women, led by Miss Cotton in a traditional ceremony, immerse themselves in the river and find peace as they confess their fears, hopes, and secrets. The men, who've spent the day together in the country, also renew boyhood friendships. ``All things,'' Miss Cotton observes, are now ``made right.'' A sometimes obtrusively schematic plot, but more than compensated for by rich textures and an exuberant vitality.

Pub Date: May 20th, 1997
ISBN: 0-435-98946-4
Page count: 239pp
Publisher: Heinemann
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 1997


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by Judith C. Lovell