A fastidious and successful Caribbean zombie navigates the uncertain pathways of the human heart in this cerebral take on the undead.
Poet, screenwriter, and novelist Cabiya (The Head, 2014, etc.) brings a dead man to life in this portrait of a man who cannot trust his own mind and, indeed, his heart. The book takes the form of a scrapbook by a woman named Isadore Bellamy, who worked with a brilliant scientist, unnamed, the executive vice president of a pharmaceutical company that lies in the gray world between Haiti and the Dominican Republic. At best, it’s a shambolic experiment but one that does have a unique literary voice. But it is messy and unfocused and may prove unsatisfying to readers expecting something more along the lines of Colson Whitehead’s Zone One or Edan Lepucki’s California. The book flips between the written confessions of our zombie protagonist, passages of traditional fiction, and transcripts of police interrogations of Dr. Isadore X. Bellamy in the wake of something bad. The somewhat devious Isadore is one of three complicated women in our protagonist’s life, one of a triptych that includes the passionate and visceral Patricia Cesares and the naïve and open-hearted Mathilde Álverez. If you asked for a Caribbean version of Shakespeare’s Weird Sisters, you’d get a portrait of these three characters. And if our protagonist was a normal man, this would simply be a workplace drama. But what Cabiya accomplishes here is twisting the reader’s perceptions to see the world through the eyes of a man who does not see the world as it is and enveloping his protagonist in emotions that he cannot possibly comprehend. “Is it possible that existence is not a feat of balance?” he asks. “Created from nothing, sustained by nothing, and sought by nothing, aren’t we, every single one of us, but a single stop away from dissolution? What separates us from the void? Nothing separates us from the void. We carry it within. We are the void.”
A twisty, disorderly, but culturally resonant tale of zombie woe. Sleep tight, kids.