Land of Love and Drowning
Author: Tiphanie Yanique
Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
Date of Publication: July 10, 2014
Land of Love and Drowning is unique in many ways. First, the book is set in the Virgin Islands during the early twentieth century as island ownership is transferred from Denmark to the United States. There is ambivalence about this transition among the islanders. Secondly the complex story line is narrated by multiple characters, including one whole chapter told from the point of view of an unborn fetus. Thirdly, the author, a native of St. Thomas, uses local dialects for some of the dialogue. All of this adds up to an intriguing, interesting and entertaining read.
The plot is complex. The two main characters are sisters: Anette and Eeona Bradshaw. They are also daughters of a sea captain who drowns in a storm, suddenly leaving the family destitute. The two girls travel divergent but intersecting paths. Their small and, at the time, isolated island lends itself to a complicated relationships. In Land of Love and Drowning there are mistresses, incest and compromises. None of the characters escape awkward entanglements. These stories within the main story are juxtaposed with and illuminate the history of St. Thomas in the twentieth century.
The writing is descriptive and enticing. Yanique's descriptions of the tropical locales make the reader want to book a flight to the Caribbean pronto:
"He thought of Anette and the ocean; he thought of them as the same frightening, enticing thing. Behind him was an army of coconut trees. There was the thump every now and then of a coconut hitting the ground. He didn't turn away from the waves for that noise. He would only turn for the hushed movement of the sand. For the swish of a leaf. He wanted her to come up on him."
This was a book I almost stopped at about fifty pages in because of revelations regarding the relationship of Captain Bradshaw with his eldest daughter. However, as the story unfolded and the repercussions of misjudgments and misdeeds are revealed, the story became easier to read. The writing is what kept me reading and it is well worth it. This is an author with tremendous authenticity as well as ability to make the reader see and feel the locale, I enjoyed this book very much, a lot more than I thought I would after the first few chapters.