four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
50-Jan-Feb-2011
By: 
Karen Lord
user_rating: 
0

A-Redemption in IndigoBarbadian-born Karen Lord won the Frank Collymore Literary Prize in her native country for this first novel, which is an update on a Senegalese folk tale.

The Story: Paama tires of her husband Ansige's antics--he's gluttonous, steals, and brings disgrace to her family--and leaves him for her home village of Makende. When Ansige next sees her two years later to repair what is left of the marriage, Paama has been given the Chaos Stick--a simple tool with extraordinary powers--by the indigo lord Chance. But not everyone is pleased with the woman's newfound gift, especially the djombi (along with Chance and others, one of the "undying ones") who wants the stick for himself. Spirits, tricksters, talking insects, and other folktale characters abound in Paama's new life, and her adventures are the stuff of "once-upon-a-time" fantasy.
Small Beer Press. 224 pages. $16. ISBN: 9781931520669

BSCReview 4 of 5 Stars
"Redemption in Indigo is a quick, engaging read, and I expect that most readers will find it a fresh addition to the genre. I'll certainly be looking forward to Karen Lord's future books." C. N. Rivera

NY Times Book Review 4 of 5 Stars
"Lord's first novel is a clever, exuberant mix of Caribbean and Senegalese influences that balances riotously funny set pieces ... with serious drama initiated by meddlesome supernatural beings. ... Throughout, Lord manages to compress her story while balancing the cosmic and the personal--all with a verve that would be the envy of many veteran novelists." Jeff VanderMeer

Seattle Times 4 of 5 Stars
"Using a Senegalese folktale the way a composer uses a musical theme--as a basis for variation--she recounts the fantastical adventures of Paama, who escapes her unfortunate marriage only to be placed in unwitting charge of awesome universal powers. ... Full of sharp insights and humorous asides ... Redemption extends the Caribbean Island storyteller's art into the 21st century and hopefully, beyond." Nisi Shawl

Caribbean Review 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Redemption in Indigo considers what is possible with the Barbadian or Caribbean novel, and it does so to the literature's great benefit. ... While everything converges rather tidily in [the novel] ... the narrator's response to how much human life is ruled by fate, choice, chaos, or chance is hasty." Robert Edison Sandiford

Critical Summary

Voices like Karen Lord's--ones that ring with a crystal clarity--are rare and always worth listening to, even though sometimes they don't get a fair hearing. But as the Seattle Times points out, "The contest between small independent presses and huge media conglomerates could be won because the little guys are able to take big chances." Lord is a rising talent, and her debut brings the passion and energy of the storyteller's art to the page. The novel's conclusion may be drawn a bit hastily, but Lord leaves plenty of room for a sequel. Based on the success of Redemption in Indigo, a second helping would be most welcome.