A tinted review in adult Forecasts indicates a book that's of exceptional importance to our readers, but hasn't received a starred or boxed review.MR. POTTERJamaica Kincaid. Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $18 (144p) ISBN 0-374-21494-8
Kincaid follows up My Brother
and Autobiography of My Mother
with another unsentimental, unsparing meditation on family and the larger forces that shape an individual's world. The novel follows the life of one man, Mr. Potter, from his birth to his death (not necessarily in that order) on the Caribbean island of Antigua. Mr. Potter, a native Antiguan of African descent, works as a chauffeur for a Mideastern immigrant and then for himself. His world is full of displaced persons—a client who is a Holocaust refugee, a lover from the island of Dominica—but Mr. Potter gives no thought to his own displacement or the events in the wider world that have brought these people together. In fact, he doesn't think about very much besides securing creature comforts; at the book's opening, he is unreflective and unselfconscious—"between him and all that he saw there was no distance of any kind." But what seems like a conventional narrative about a man's coming to consciousness becomes something quite different as the reader gradually gets to know the book's narrator, one of Mr. Potter's many illegitimate daughters, who slowly reveals her relationship to her father and whose voice comes to dominate the story. As in her previous books, Kincaid has exquisite control over her narrator's deep-seated rage, which drives the story but never overpowers it and is tempered by a clear-eyed sympathy. Her prose here is more incantatory and hypnotic than ever, with repeating phrases ("And that day, the sun was in its usual place, up above and in the middle of the sky, and it shone in its usual way, so harshly bright...") that can occasionally seem mannered. This, however, is a relatively rare occurrence in an otherwise taut and often spellbinding novel. (May)
Forecast:After a number of pleasing but peripheral nonfiction projects (
My Garden (Book): and
Stories), Kincaid returns to fiction.
With My Brother (a memoir) and
Autobiography of My Mother (a novel),
Mr. Potter forms a kind of loose, autobiographical family series and should win the same acclaim and interest as its predecessors.