Augustown by Kei Miller
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I selected this book from the Tournament of Books longlist as a potential dark horse. I really liked it and would love to see it make the shortlist. I like the way it plays with storytelling and assumptions the reader might be making.
Halfway through, I was confronted with this:
"Look, this isn't magic realism. This is not another story about superstitious island people and their primitive beliefs. No. You don't get off that easy. This is a story about people as real as you are, and as real as I once was before I became a bodiless thing floating up here in the sky. You may as well stop to consider a more urgent question; not whether you believe in this story or not, but whether this story is about the kinds of people you have never taken the time to believe in."
The novel starts with a woman in a specific area known as Augustown, which may be based on the real life area of Jamaica referred to as August Town, now known as Ma Taffy, somewhat of a matriarch for her nieces and nephews and greatnieces and greatnephews. She is blind but knows something has gone wrong, because she can smell something, which she can't at that moment identify. Kaia returns home from school and she discovers his dreadlocks have been chopped off by his teacher.
From there, Ma Taffy starts telling a story about a flying preacherman who showed up in Augustown when she was younger. This connects to the autoclaps (ie: apocalypse) events that are about to occur. The novel ends up roughly divided into before and after, and it all spirals around Kaia's day at school.
There is a lot here about modern, non-tourist Jamaica.
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