After a personal tragedy upends his world, American-born artist Chris travels to his mother's homeland in the Caribbean hoping to find some peace and tranquility. He plans to spend his time painting in solitude and coming to terms with his recent loss and his fractured relationship with his father. Instead, he discovers a new extended and complicated 'family,' with their own startling stories, including a love triangle. The people he meets help him to heal, even as he supports them in unexpected ways, through his art. Told from different points of view, this is a novel about unlikely love, friendship, and community, with several surprises along the way.
During a discussion of my own novel, These Ghosts Are Family, at a private book club, a group of Caribbean women told me that the one aspect of the story — which teems with the supernatural — that they’d found the most unbelievable was when a character dies and has his identity stolen because he has no family except for an aging grandmother to come looking for him. 'That would never happen in the Caribbean,' one participant said. 'He would have cousins, he would have neighbors, uncles — he would have aunties!' The Commonwealth Prize-winning, Jamaican-born author Alecia McKenzie’s tender new novel — an emotionally resonant ode to adopted families and community resilience — fills this gap. A Million Aunties is a polyphonic narrative with a cast of characters who have experienced betrayal, disaster and loss at different stages of life ... although some story lines are left unresolved, the author seems less interested in how the characters tie up their conflicts and more in exploring how not just family but community can be our saving grace in our darkest moments. McKenzie’s message is clear: There is power in us simply showing up for one another.
As the story meanders from Firenze, Alabama, to New York City and Jamaica to Paris, it is filled with characters who become a global family for American-born artist Chris, who travels to Jamaica, his mother’s island, to quietly paint and mourn for his wife. McKenzie uses multiple points of view to portray a strong cast of characters ... The writing is evocative, capturing vivid details in descriptions of a ride on a new highway to Kaya Bay and Chris’s feelings when he sees Monet’s Camille sur son lit de mort, scenes finely balanced, with brisk storytelling that makes each character’s experiences engrossing.
Jamaican writer McKenzie’s thoroughly satisfying novel (after Sweetheart) explores a Jamaican American artist’s grief after losing his wife in a New York City terrorist attack ... Many characters and plot threads overlap, and McKenzie juggles them with aplomb, making Stephen the connector as aspects of Chris’s artist life, Jamaican heritage, and relationship with his in-laws increasingly run together. McKenzie’s prose enlivens the Jamaican scenery ... she seamlessly blends the Jamaican characters’ patois in first-person chapters alternating with Chris’s narrative. This bighearted narrative of love, loss, and family is handled with grace and beauty.