Other Voices by Tony Blenman

Other Voices

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Blenman tells of persevering through a childhood of abuse to lead a Christian life in this debut memoir.

Born to a poor family in rural Barbados, Blenman endured a grueling childhood. While he was instilled early on with respect for his elders and a strong work ethic, he was also the subject of multiple forms of abuse. In addition to the corporal punishment he suffered at the hands of his short-tempered parents (his father once killed the family dog for eating from Blenman’s dinner bowl), the author was also the victim of sexual abuse from two of his sisters. Throughout his schooling, he was often beaten with a strap based on the arbitrary determinations of his teachers. In addition to documenting his abuse and the ways in which it made his life more difficult, Blenman seeks to record those people who influenced his life in a more positive way, the eponymous “other voices” whose words and advice have remained with him over the course of his life. There was Mammy, the older woman down the road who gave him sweetbreads and told him not to curse. There was Mr. Messiah, a teacher whose encouragement led to Blenman’s grades improving and ultimately winning him a scholarship. Blenman eventually moved to Canada to attend college and remains there still. While he continued to suffer trials in his adult life, he has weathered them using the lessons of his childhood. He credits his subsequent success, in part, to responding to his circumstances “in a behavioural manner that brings healing to self.” The author’s prose is capable, if not always gripping. The book is divided into short chapters that hew closely to Blenman’s memory, but they rarely provide the details that would help make the Barbados of his story come across with greater intensity. The other characters, particularly his family members, could have used a bit more exploration: they loom enigmatically at the edges of his account but never feel fully realized. The raw material of the memoir is robust, but the way it is presented does not ensure it will linger long in the reader’s mind.

While offering strong elements, this recollection of surviving violence and reconciling with one’s past lacks a fully developed narrative.

Pub Date: March 30th, 2016
ISBN: 978-1-4602-8549-7
Page count: 210pp
Publisher: FriesenPress
Program: Kirkus Indie
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