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.
... Colvin’s intriguing and memorable debut shines a light on a little-known black experience ... Colvin expertly weaves in the subject of owning one’s heritage as Warner comes to terms with his Canadian past and the tragedies that dogged the Sebolts and Platts. The book covers much territory—the black experience in a small enclave in Canada and Etienne’s and Warner’s grappling with their racial identity—and sometimes these varying plots feel like they belong in two different books, making for a novel that feels diffuse. Nevertheless, this is a penetrating, fresh look at the indomitable spirit of black pioneers and their descendants.
Colvin's storytelling ranges back and forth in time, unearthing his fictional community's history ... This results in an exploration of how time and migration can change a family and impact its experience of race, but it can also turn the narrative into a confused jumble of incidents. Important characters like Kiendra, Kath's prankster friend whose antics doom her, are too thinly drawn to have the impact Colvin intends. Meanwhile, time that could be used to round out these characters is spent on detours that don't pay off. Colvin's prose can also plod ... A promising debut that aims high but stumbles.