... electric ... These stories linger in the malaise of foreignness as the characters try to form bonds across the boundaries of race, class and culture, only to conclude, in several cases, that such relationships are impossible ... But the best stories in the book reach beyond the discontent to grant the protagonists a meaningful, if unexpected, sense of belonging — even if it doesn’t last ... The collection teaches us what kinds of respites can be found in diaspora — fleeting, begrudging, but real nonetheless.
This powerhouse collection of stories brings to vivid life the experiences of a diverse cast of (mostly) women of (mostly) Jamaican descent around the world ... These stories movingly explore identity, belonging, and home all through the complexities of the Jamaican diaspora, immigration, assimilation, colonialism, racism, sexism, and class—all through a vivid cast of characters who will remain on your mind long after each story ends. I’m not a big short story reader, but this is truly a must-read collection and highly recommended for fans of The Secret Lives of Church Ladies!
Penetrating ... Throughout, and in lucid prose, Irving depicts her characters’ chilly shocks over unexpected gaps in intimacy with their loved ones as they work to fit into non-immigrant Black spaces, making for stories that are both class-conscious and richly atmospheric. Irving’s inviting combination of subjects and style heralds a welcome new voice.
Expansive ... In several stories, characters are first presented one way—racist hicks; an earnest but clueless White mother; a long-lost parent—only for Irving to introduce a shift in perspective that encourages the reader not to judge so hastily. But a careful reader (or a frequent reader of short story collections) will soon become familiar with this convention, and instead of leading to a feeling of real enlightenment, the stories will feel tired. Irving is at her best in odd, harsh moment ... A first collection that hints at bigger things to come.