cover image A Thirst for Rain

A Thirst for Rain

Roslyn Carrington. Kensington Publishing Corporation, $22 (208pp) ISBN 978-1-57566-446-0

Set in the author's native Trinidad and unfolding over the course of the worst dry season in years, this heartfelt debut swells with a host of fevered entanglements. A house divided into residences for four families, with a communal courtyard, functions as the stage for encounters between six prototypically Caribbean characters. Independent and sensual Myra is a dockside foodseller and single mother to Odile, a responsible teenage girl who excels at her studies. Myra's father, Sebastian, is the town madman, strolling the streets with a pram full of trinkets. Then there is Rory, an angst-ridden young man who harbors a crush on Odile, and Slim, Myra's slick, no-good lover. When Myra finds out she is carrying Slim's child, she refuses the abortion he demands. Meanwhile, Jacob, once a champion stickfighter and now a humble cobbler with a crippled left leg, yearns to reach out to Myra, but fears rejection. A tender love develops slowly between them, but meanwhile Odile is suffering through her own unanticipated pregnancy, abandoning school and spending her days brooding at a nearby river. Rory follows her surreptitiously until one night, as the drought-stricken village is finally doused with torrential rains, his hidden love is transformed into violent, tragic passion. On occasion Carrington's similes miss their mark (""Her eyes were like fried eggs""; ""She was smiling like a banana"") and her rendition of island patois is uneven. But short chapters move the narrative briskly, and the intense evocation of island life makes this a worthy addition to Caribbean fiction collections. However, North American readers may find the female characters frustratingly Faulknerian in their fatalistic attitudes toward their romantic lives. (Sept.)