A Jamaican man shares his unique coming of age story.
Riley shares the long and twisted tale of his upbringing in Montego Bay, Jamaica in his debut novel. The story opens in the 1960’s in a small town near “Mobay,” where we meet Ruby, the mother of eight children and counting. We learn how this attractive but irresponsible woman started having children by different men at a young age and walked away from nearly all of the families that she had created. Calvin, Ruby’s youngest, is raised a young boy with a host of challenges whose “anger was only a kind of self defense.” The protagonist faces poverty, an absent mother, an alcoholic gambling father, and bad influences from his siblings, as he navigates a world where “the people around the community used to look on Riley and his family as rejects.” Absentee parents meant that the gang of unsupervised and often hungry kids are left to their own devices to find food by begging and stealing. After realizing that “nobody was making any effort to point him in the right direction, and he didn’t know where or towards whom to turn for assistance,” Riley decides to pursue a more honest life and moves in with his aunt and uncle and takes a reputable job collecting bags at a hardware store. Riley’s challenges don’t end there; he survives political unrest, violent uprisings, and Hurricane Gilbert in September 1988. He finds refuge in a love interest Betty and eventually braves the unknown to make a better life for himself and his future in England. Riley’s syntax carries a melodious tone that matches the colorful setting of a family with hardships. The fine balance of exposition and dialogue create a seamless narrative easy for any reader to lose oneself in.
A delightful birds-eye view of the triumph of a young man when the odds were stacked against him.