"A powerful first novel. . . . Writing with assurance and control, James uses his small-town drama to suggest the larger anguish of a postcolonial society struggling for its own identity."--The New York Times Book Review, Editors' Choice
"It's 150-proof literary rum guaranteed to intoxicate and enchant. Highly recommended."--Library Journal, starred review
This stunning debut novel tells the story of a biblical struggle in a remote Jamaican village in 1957 with language as taut as classic works by Cormac McCarthy and a richness reminiscent of early Toni Morrison.
Marlon James was born in Kingston, Jamaica, in 1970. His second novel, The Book of Night Women, a New York Times Editors' Choice, was released in 2009 to widespread critical acclaim. Currently a professor of literature and creative writing at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, he divides his time between Jamaica, New York City, and the Twin Cities.
The New York Times - James Polk
Writing with assurance and control, James uses his small-town drama to suggest the larger anguish of a postcolonial society struggling for its own identity. But he mixes this with an evocation of a cultlike religious fervor that recalls the People's Temple and the Jonestown massacre of the 1970's. At the same time, the clash of individual wills and the profound sexual confusion of the characters provide the narrative with a more precise, more personal dimension.
Set in James's native Jamaica, this dynamic, vernacular debut sings of the fierce battle between two flawed preachers. In 1957, the village of Gibbeah is a dusty remnant of the plantation era, halfheartedly ministered to by drunken Pastor Hector Bligh, aka the Rum Preacher. On a day beginning with a bad omen--black vultures, locally called John Crows, crash through the church windows--a man calling himself Apostle York "set[s] pon Pastor Bligh like when you beat a mangy dog" and takes over his church. Bligh takes refuge in the home of another village outcast, while York's commanding presence whips Gibbeah into a frenzy of repentance. Lucinda, long reviled as the town slut, sets her sights on salvation and the Apostle, while Clarence, with whom she had a dalliance, becomes one of "The Five," a group of young men eager to enforce York's decrees against sin. It isn't long before group cohesion becomes mob mentality, and punishments grow increasingly brutal and public. Bligh returns to the fray, and the resulting confrontations set the village on a path to destruction. With gruesome and sometimes gratuitous descriptions of sex and gore, this isn't a tale for the faint of heart, but those eager for fire-and-brimstone lyricism will find this an exciting read. (Sept.)
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July 31, 2010
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