My friend Malene loan me her copy of Pain Tree by Olive Senior. I had attended a book event earlier in the year and Malene read from one of the stories in “Pain Tree”. Just from the excerpt she read, I was utterly enthralled with Senior’s writing. I cannot believe it took me so long to read Olive Senior’s work, but I am happy I finally did.
Pain Tree is a collection of stories that covers numerous topics, themes, relationships and events. All the stories are set in Jamaica, but the characters are so diverse, you can’t help but see yourself in one or more of these characters. I have always said, it takes an excellent Writer to write short stories and in Pain Tree, Olive Senior shows us how great a writer she is. Within 4-10 pages Senior is able to present characters with depth, immersive plotlines and interesting looks at various themes.
If I have to describe this collection I would go with “deeply moving…” . Each story evoked a range of emotions from me. All the characters were uniquely made and memorable. Some of my favourite stories were “Pain Tree”, in this story we meet the narrator who spoke about growing up with her Helper who she grew apart from. Upon visiting her home after years of being away, the Narrator takes us down memory lane in the most beautiful and deeply moving way. “A Father Like That” could be described as a coming of age story about a young girl who seeks to piece together her pass by trying to know more about her father. “The Goodness of my Heart” and “The Country Cousin” I thoroughly enjoyed, Olive Senior writes great revenge and underdog stories and I was here for the ladies in these stories. “Coal” and “Lollipop” are two of stories that I kept thinking about days after putting down the book.
It seems like I have listed out all the stories as my favorite but that goes to show how exceptional this collection is. Olive Senior pens moving stories about loneliness, depression, forgiveness, betrayal, love and people all trying to find their place in the world. While some stories are heart breaking and you cannot help but grief for the characters and the difficulties they face. Other stories focus on redemption, resilience and overcoming against all odds, these stories had me cheering on the characters.
I wish I had the words to describe how utterly moving this collection of short stories is, but alas, I am not a writer. If you are looking for an excellent collection of short stories written by a Caribbean woman, please grab a copy of Pain Tree!