Structured as a triptych, Africaville chronicles the lives of three generations of the Sebolt family whose lives unfold against the tumultuous events of the twentieth century from the Great Depression of the 1930s, through the social protests of the 1960s to the economic upheavals in the 1980s.
Colvin’s absorbing and fluidly written debut novel captures an acute sense of ties loosened and rebound ... Throughout, the longing to define oneself for oneself vies with the powerful rootedness defined by Africaville, and the pain caused by shuffled-off family bonds is palpable ... Excellent reading that revives our sense of community while revealing North America’s racial complexity in a new light.
The opening pages of Colvin’s Afric[a]ville provide an immediately absorbing introduction to a long-lost community whose houses were eventually torn down in the 1960s to make way for a bridge. His saga, set in Nova Scotia, Quebec and a handful of southern American states, zooms in on the ’50, ‘60s and ’80s before an emotional, satisfying conclusion in 1992. Despite potential set-piece locations such as mid-century Birmingham, Ala., Colvin maintains a focus on romantic and familial relationships—marriage, infidelity, parenting and, frequently, parent-child and extended family disputes ... Colvin’s saga falters: clunky historical exposition, overly abundant minutia, perplexing and unsatisfying plot tangents, and, overall, thematic developments that come and go. Even the awkward transitions...suggest an ambitious book in need of another round of revisions.