Why I Read It: And at last it’s time to discuss our February Theme Park book club selection. The theme was Reprise: Black Women Writing Spec Fic, and Karen Lord’s debut eked out a win against Octavia E. Butler, Nalo Hopkinson, and Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu! It’s a good thing this book has had my interest since it was released by Small Beer Press, and I’m glad to finally have a chance to read it, because otherwise, I’m not sure when I would’ve gotten around to picking it up. So let’s see how February’s book club selection treated us, shall we?
The premise: ganked from BN.com: Karen Lord’s debut novel, which won the prestigious Frank Collymore Literary Prize in Barbados, is an intricately woven tale of adventure, magic, and the power of the human spirit.
Paama’s husband is a fool and a glutton. Bad enough that he followed her to her parents’ home in the village of Makende, now he’s disgraced himself by murdering livestock and stealing corn. When Paama leaves him for good, she attracts the attention of the undying ones — the djombi — who present her with a gift: the Chaos Stick, which allows her to manipulate the subtle forces of the world. Unfortunately, a wrathful djombi with indigo skin believes this power should be his and his alone.
Bursting with humor and rich in fantastic detail, Redemption in Indigo is a clever, contemporary fairy tale that introduces readers to a dynamic new voice in Caribbean literature. Lord’s world of spider tricksters and indigo immortals, inspired in part by a Senegalese folk tale, will feel instantly familiar — but Paama’s adventures are fresh, surprising, and utterly original.
Spoilers, yay or nay?: Yay. It’s a book club selection, which means spoilers are a go. If you haven’t yet read the book, please skip to “My Rating,” and you’ll be in good shape. Everyone else, onward!
Discussion: It’s a funny thing. When I first got my Kindle, I went on a downloading spree. Now, I wasn’t downloading books, but samples, and one of the samples I downloaded was Redemption in Indigo. At the time, I was reading so many samples that I created three categories on the Kindle so I could keep track. I don’t know what was wrong with my brain when I sampled Redemption in Indigo, but I quickly stashed it in the “No” category and forgot about the book, until this theme popped up, and I need a fourth title.
What possessed me to add a title I didn’t think I’d care for? Morbid curiosity. I was playing against the odds: the other three books in the poll were books I already owned, so surely, one of those would get picked, right?
Of course not. Redemption in Indigo won easily, leaving me befuddled and more than a little nervous about reading. But I’ll be honest: thank god it won, because I would’ve never given this delightful read a chance otherwise.
Let’s talk about the theme first and why I chose it. Okay, seriously, I was trying to three-peat Octavia E. Butler, because every February since I started my book club, we’ve read a novel by Octavia E. Butler. But I also find that while women writing spec fic usually have something interesting to say, women of color writing spec fic not only have interesting things to say, but force me in a perspective I would’ve never gotten otherwise, and my world and reading experience is all the richer for it. So even though I was nervous about reading Redemption in Indigo, I was excited too, because I knew I’d get something different.
I was right.
For starters, I found the narrator to be utterly enjoyable. Oddly, this is what turned me off in the sample, but for me, it was a case of getting used to the narrative voice and the style of storytelling, and once I did, I had a ball. I loved the humor found in the narrative, like this example (sorry, I read this on Kindle, so no page numbers):
He employs a twisted kind of logic, but one that still works when the will is looking for any excuse. Thus runs the train of his reasoning:
Thought 1: I am Semwe’s guest.
Thought 2: It is Semwe’s responsibility to feed his guest.
Thought 3: These are Semwe’s lands.
Thought 4: The sheep is on Semwe’s lands and is therefore Semwe’s sheep, and so I can eat it.
Of course, the humor wasn’t the only thing that drew me to the narrative. Passages like this also stood out:
Then there were a few who were more brag than bravery, youngsters who had little or no experience who were traveling the world to find themselves. There were others who, having unfortunately found themselves, were seeking a way to get lost again.
The magic and the world-building also called to me. It has it’s own organic logic, nothing that I can dissect to show you how it works, but when you read it on the page, it does, and it sounds so fascinating! I loved the concept (what I understood of it, anyway) of the shadows, and the very simple magics given to Paama: the broach, the headband, and the pillow. It’s so simple, yet so effective, and it speaks volumes to the world-building. At least, it does for me.
Then there’s the Trickster, who kept popping up where I least expected him to, and the Indigo Lord, a character that most authors would turn into a love interest, but ended up becoming a child instead. Talk about that ending! I’m correct in thinking that the Indigo Lord and Trickster were essentially reincarnated as Paama’s twin boys?
Honestly, I don’t have a whole lot to say about this, other than I devoured the book and enjoyed every element. I never really knew what was in store for the characters, nor where the plot was headed or why. Having no expectations allowed me to read with pleasure and enjoy the twists and turns, as well as the humor to be found along the way. Of course, it was not all humor. There were some poignant moments, and some sad ones besides. All in all, it’s an excellent read.
My Rating: 8 – Excellent
This is one of those books I can see myself re-reading in the future. It’s short and sweet, but with a whole lot packed into its pages. While I finished it quickly, Redemption in Indigo had a lot of depth and constantly surprised me with its characters and story decisions. Other authors would’ve taken a more convention route, but not Karen Lord, resulting in yet another utterly enjoyable read for my book club. Well, utterly enjoyable for me. We’ll see how all of you book-clubbers liked it, but I will say if you’ve haven’t had the opportunity to read this book, you’re certainly missing out. Also, reading this book will make you hungry. That is all.
Cover Commentary: The cover caught my eye, which is always a good thing. Short of showing the book does have light-hearted and funny moments, I think the cover represents the book rather well. I found a different cover on Amazon, which in and of itself is rather compelling to me, as it invites my eye to really soak up the details, but I keep thinking of witches, which doesn’t represent the book well at all.