Flickering Shadows

Kwadwo Agymah Kamau, Author Coffee House Press $21.95 (304p) ISBN 978-1-56689-049-6
The epic power of the West Indies' storytelling tradition comes alive in this skillfully imagined first novel about an unnamed Caribbean island making the transition from colonial domination to self-rule. Originally from Barbados but now a Virginia resident, Kamau sets his tale on the Hill, a tight-knit community of farmers, craftsmen and dockworkers, focusing on the effects of the governmental shift on the common people. While political and religious avarice are as old as time, the people of the Hill come to life as original and vital creations, as do the spirits of their rambunctious deceased relatives. The community is a brilliant microcosm in which ancient wisdom is juxtaposed with modern naivete, lust with love and pettiness with honor. Orchestrating the earthy narrative is the spirit of Old Cudjoe, who tells the story through the lives of his grown grandchildren, Cephus and Inez, their spouses, Doreen and Boysie, and children, Kwame and Kojo, as they react to the election of Anthony Roachford, one of the Hill's own, as prime minister. Despite his victory at the polls, Roachford's ambitions have always been suspect, and those suspicions are confirmed when the Hill discovers the extent to which the newly elected leader is willing to sell out his people for personal gain. Kamau's lean prose serves as the perfect backdrop for the richly wrought dialect of his characters' speech. Handling vernacular with the absolute minimum of visual dislocation and tortured spelling, the author injects his book with an almost audible rhythm that adds immeasurably to the depth and power of the tale. The shocking and brutal changes that wrack the Hill are offset by the elemental cohesion, elasticity, mysticism and humor of the Hill's culture and the constancy of its struggle to endure. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 09/02/1996
Release date: 09/01/1996
Paperback - 298 pages - 978-0-8050-5472-9
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