After Betty Ramdin's abusive husband dies, she invites a colleague, Mr. Chetan, to move in with her and her son, Solo, as their lodger. Over time, these three form an unconventional family, loving each other deeply and depending upon one another. Then, one a fateful night, Solo overhears Betty confiding in Mr. Chetan and learns a secret that plunges him into torment.
... stellar ... [Persaud] has taken the spirit of Walcott’s poem and exploded it into a bighearted prose narrative about an unconventional family, fear, hatred, violence, chasing love, losing it and finding it again just when we need it most ... we smell the food of the Caribbean, sit in the traffic, enjoy the sun, feel the remnants of colonial oppression pressing down on struggling citizens ... Through her tender eye, we see full characters leaning on one another to better understand the world and themselves. We wish our families were more like theirs ... it’s in the second half that the novel’s heart lies, as a secret revealed about the nature of Sunil’s death threatens to crumble this makeshift family ... In lesser hands, the plot of Love After Love could have fallen into melodrama ... But Persaud never loses control ... That said, the writing can at times feel too restrained. Just when we want to hang out a beat longer in the minds of these wonderful characters, Persaud ends the chapter or scene, throws us into another perspective ... Great books about love, like this one, feel like precious and impossible gifts. We should cherish the writers who provide them.
Persaud has a knack for finding the sublime in the ordinary: in her hands the quotidian details of even apparently 'small' lives lead to flashes of pure truth ... the language is colloquial, with both narrative and dialogue soaked in an ear-catching Trinidadian dialect. The prose is playful and rhythmic, seeming to beat its own drum, so that at times you don’t read the novel so much as hear it. You sit in its company while it takes you into its confidence ... One of the reasons Love After Love is so delightful is that it reads like a modern meditation on the different kinds of love as catalogued by the ancient Greeks, crossed with the characters’ deliciously gossipy self-reflection. Persaud gives us a captivating interrogation of love in all its forms, how it heals and how it harms, the twists and torments of obsession (mania), sex and romance (eros), family (storge), friendship (philia), acceptance or rejection by the community, and so on. But much like the Derek Walcott poem from which it takes its title, the novel is ultimately concerned with the possibilities of that elated and oddly elegiac moment when we finally come to love ourselves.
Persaud’s book is a memorable, moving account of wounded people who come together to create an alternative family, a refuge where they can heal ... Persaud offers readers not only the expected doubles, roti and music the twin island republic is famous for but also vivid descriptions of insular communities, intimate friendships and Hindu religious practices and mysticism. The joy of this novel is in the way that it savors language and life’s sensory pleasures; when Betty cooks cascadoux curry, the reader’s mouth waters for the food she serves with love. Persaud captures the gorgeous rhythms of Trinidadian speech and presents the bawdy humor, wit and buoyancy Trinis are known for ... There is much to admire in Love After Love. It will be a pleasurable read for anyone who has tried and failed in love, marriage, friendship and parenting. This novel reminds readers of why we go to books in search of answers to life’s great questions, among them how to demand more of our lovers and ourselves, how to guide the children in our lives and how to grieve our losses and our mistakes.