And they didn’t invade. They arrived…
Cadwell Turnbull’s debut novel The Lesson is unlike anything I have ever read before and I cannot stop talking about it and I didn’t want it to end.
Set on the U.S. Virgin Islands, we meet the members of the community of Charlotte Amalie-like most Islanders, they are pretty laid back, but all living complicated lives. Things get even more complicated when one day the sky opens up and an alien ship docks close to the island. The five hundred Ynaa came in “peace” and with advance technology to offer for their five year stay on the island. The Ynaa’s message to the people of the U.S. Virgin Islands is that they are looking for “something”, they needed time to “research” and “they would leave the planet as they found it”. Yes, the Ynnas were very vague but their ask seemed reasonable at the time.
Fast forward to a year into the invasion and tension between the Islanders and Ynaas is strong. While the Ynaas’s tries to blend in by using human disguise, they are easily prone to anger, so much so, a Ynaa ripped an Islander to his death. The Ynaa’s Ambassador Mera, tries to keep the peace by using Derrick a fellow Islander to help her get the message out but things are now beyond her control. The Islanders realize there are no consequences for the Ynaa’s action. Things spiral, quickly.
When I say I have never read a book like this, I mean it. Cadwell is able to traverse and blend various genres together, it is hard to classify exactly what genre this book falls under. I think that is what I loved most about it. We get a bit of Sci-Fi, historical fiction and young adults. The book starts out exploring the complicated lives of the community members of Charlotte Amalie. We see a married couple coming to terms with the impending doom of their marriage and how their daughter might be affected. We meet a young man who grew up in church questioning Christianity, while wondering “what else could be out there?”
I loved that the book gave a communal look at how the invasion affected the Islanders, then focused on specific members of the community. I loved that I was able to know what the general feeling in the community was like, and how the invasion was handled from a political and international relations angle. What I enjoyed even more was Cadwell’s exploration of specific community members and their interactions with the Ynaas. The characters were fully formed, and you felt for them and how they try to navigate, yet another invasion.
Cadwell, took his time in The Lesson to explore the history of colonialism and what the invasion meant for an island that have a history of being invaded and taken over. We get a historical look on how the island was colonized, and the question was posed to the reader and the members of the community, whether the Ynaa invaded or they arrived. Other themes that were beautifully explored was religion, spirituality, identity, love, belonging and relationships.
If you are looking for a book that will grab you from the very beginning and won’t let go until the end, this is it. If you have never read about an alien invasion happening on an island- well this might be the only book for you to read.
A must read!