This is what I mean by a stellar debut! I am blown away!
Soraya Palmer was flexing on us when she wrote this debut novel and I am here for it, because it is truly an experience reading this book and I need everyone to engage with what true storytelling looks like.
The Human Origins of Beatrice Porter and Other Essential Ghosts has everything, from folklore, to spirits, to contemporary Caribbean and Brooklyn setting, themes of family, sisterhood, mother-daughter relationship, infidelity, coming-of-age, sexuality- it is all there and it is very well executed. What a brilliant book!
This book is about a family comes together through storytelling. Told from the perspective of the two sisters in the family, we are privy to the family life. The mother who is currently pregnant with the third child, she reminisce on growing up in Trinidad and Tobago, meeting her current husband and how much he loves her. She suffers from a lot of headaches, while trying to raise her two daughters who she cannot seem to relate to, added to that, her husband is cheating on her… again. Her husband, originally from Jamaica, loves storytelling, and loses himself in it, he does not know how to commit or be there when times are hard.
Zora, is currently on her way out of the home, getting ready for college. She is exploring her sexuality in a way her mother did but she does not get the grace she needs. Wondering if she will ever be accepted by her family or the world, leaves home to find herself. Further distancing herself from her sister. Sasha is the middle child, who spends a lot of time with her journal, as a way to understand the world and what is happening around her. With her sister out of the house and her father gone as well, she must take care of her mother whose illness is getting worse. How will they as a family come together to rally for her mother?
Told from the perspective of the two daughters and an omniscience narrative this reads like a fairytale where you get insights into how things will end. I absolutely LOVED the very present narrator who draws you into the story and asks you questions- it was soooo very interactive and think that was the biggest brilliance of the book for me.
As someone who grew up in the Caribbean, storytelling is a big part of our culture and meeting family who tells story as a way to impart wisdom made me feel so much at home. Also, it doesn’t hurt that it is set in Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, my two homes.
I wish I could tell you more about this book, because I so want you to read it, but this is something you must experience for yourself. I LOVE this one, read it!