Yvette Christianse, Author . Other Press $25.95 (347p) ISBN 978-1-59051-240-1

Poet Christiansë (Castaway ), born in apartheid-era South Africa and now living in New York City, channels the torturous history of South African slavery in her debut novel. Sila van den Kaap, whom Christiansë discovered in an early 19th century document, is a slave serving hard labor at the Robben Island prison colony after murdering her own son, Baro. As Sila breaks and hauls stones, evades the attentions of the prison guards and cares for her small children, she casts her mind back to the daily indignities, fleeting pleasures and larger injustices that have defined her life since, as a young girl, she was brought to South Africa from Mozambique. Addressed primarily to the spirit of her deceased son, Sila's absorbing, lyrical narrative is circular: she alternates between exhausted lament, seething rage and scripture-tinged poetic soliloquy ("their sins are like unto a plague of locusts that eat not fields but bodies and hearts"), and returns repeatedly to the broken promise of her freedom, granted in the will of one of her mistresses, Oumiesies ("old Missus"), and disregarded by Oumiesies 's cruel son, Theron. After many passionate digressions, Sila alights, finally, on the death of Baro. In the final pages, she movingly addresses "the daughters and sons of my generations"—those now living with slavery's legacy. (Nov.)

Reviewed on: 08/07/2006
Release date: 11/01/2006
Paperback - 347 pages - 978-1-59051-281-4
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