Chronicling three generations of the Bradshaw family and set against the emergence of Saint Thomas into the modern world, follows one island family from 1916 into the 1970s, through sixty years of fathers and daughters, mothers and sons, love affairs, curses, magical gifts, loyalties, births, deaths, and triumphs.
How rare to encounter a dauntless and complex novel that convincingly melds true history with magic, but Tiphanie Yanique’s debut—a rich seascape about family and legacy, beauty’s clout and the variable waves of race and class on the twentieth-century Caribbean islands—accomplishes just that ... So much happens in the midsized novel’s pages, yet Yanique’s authorial power never wavers; whether depicting incest in the Bradshaw family or the mythic outcome of that indiscretion, she renders each scene in sharp details that transcend culture, that travel across oceans.
Yanique has set out to write the epic of this region and culture, and in fact this book deserves better than to be labeled with last-century publishing buzzwords ... Here is the stuff of legend, tremendously amplified by the oral history culture of the islands. Magical realism might better have been called legendary realism from the start. Caribbean novelists have not much deployed it (they have their own variations on obeah to work with), but Yanique has helped herself to Gabriel Garcia Márquez’s toolbox ... Yanique has borrowed a few pieces of furniture from the Southern Gothic attic. In place of Faulkner’s preoccupation with miscegenation (sheer nonsense in Yanique’s fictional world), there is incest, a recurring motif among the Bradshaws ... This novel builds its best effects rather slowly, but in the end Yanique succeeds in evoking the panorama of the Virgin Islands in a voice all her own.
While the novel is a sweeping, historical family epic with touches of magical realism, immediately putting it in a similar vein to Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years Of Solitude or Toni Morrison’s Song Of Solomon or Isabel Allende’s The House Of The Spirits, such comparisons may also be doing a disservice. Yanique’s voice is her own ... Despite having several narrators telling many sides of the same story, this is essentially the tale of two sisters, Eeona and Anette—the bonds holding them together and the differences, the secrets, that threaten to fracture them irreparably and even eradicate the enduring legacy of their family. It’s a tale about how they awaken and adjust to their father’s harmful choices, how modernization and politics eventually find their way to what seemed to be an idyllic island existence. Yanique’s novel is a vivid, shimmering, lyrical portrait, a love letter to these islands and to the hypnotic, dangerous power of the sea.