The Shadow Bride: A Novel by Roy Heath

Roy Heath, Author Persea Books $24.95 (0p) ISBN 978-0-89255-213-9
Shortlisted for the Booker Prize in England, where it was first published in 1991, this seductive family saga from Guyanese novelist Heath (The Armstrong Trilogy) portrays an idealistic, self-doubting doctor who simultaneously confronts a domineering, religiously obsessed mother; racist, condescending British administrators; tensions among Indians, Creoles, Hindus and Muslims; and his own personal quest for identity. In 1929, Betta Singh, born in Guyana to parents from India, returns from medical studies in Dublin and London to become a government medical officer on a British sugar plantation where impoverished Guyanese natives toil despite malnutrition and malaria. Meanwhile, his controlling, widowed mother, who wears trousers ``like a man,'' has fallen under the spell of a Svengali-like Hindu priest who moves in with her, first as her counselor, then as her bedmate, and whose machinations thwart a reconciliation between mother and son. In musical prose, Heath creates complex, convincing characters--like the dressmaker Lahti, emotionally enslaved to a thug who beats her, and Nen Merriman, self-styled marriage counselor and judge who holds an unofficial court to resolve disputes among Creole neighbors. Heath's modest, unpretentious style undergirds a powerful realism as his subtle analysis of family conflicts builds to a tragic and moving climax. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 10/30/1995
Release date: 11/01/1995
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