Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Book Review: Ifeona Fulani's 'Ten Days In Jamaica'

Published in The Sunday Gleaner, January 25, 2015

Book Title: Ten Days In Jamaica
Book Author: Ifeona Fulani
Book Publisher: Peepal Tree Press Ltd

"All Precious wanted was a boy to go to the beach with on Saturdays.
All Yvonne wanted was a man to trim her overgrown yard.
All Corinne wanted was to host the perfect luncheon.
All Arjun asked was that the woman he loved would spend of the rest of her life with him.
But do any of them get what they wish for?"

Desire - fervid, firm and fierce - beats like a pulse through Ifeona Fulani's short story collection, Ten Days In Jamaica.

In eight vivid tales, Fulani weaves a colourful tapestry of raw human emotion, pulling readers into the distinct worlds of her protagonists as they grapple with a life that one character's granny calls "a vale of tears".

The dilemmas are quotidian, relatable: a cancer survivor returns to her Jamaican homeland, a teenage girl struggles to win the admiration of her first major crush, a standoffish tourist finds herself relishing attention from a rent-a-dread, a US immigrant finds comfort in a random conversation with a complete stranger. But the telling is so poignant, the tales so eloquently contextualised, that each story resonates depth and uniqueness.

Using deceptively simple English, Fulani fuses the worlds of immigrant and native, raising questions of love, hope, belonging and otherness in the post-colonial world.

She provides no answers, instead allowing her characters' lives to voice the concerns and often under-represented demographic. She gives insight into this world of hubris and catharsis, venting pain, and celebrating breakthroughs.

Readers will appreciate the staccato rhythm of swift dialogue juxtaposed with idyllic scenarios and often turbulent relationships. Time somehow seems to saunter through the text, even as characters race to find their individual resolutions.

"Go and make peace with your life," a spiritual reader tells one troubled woman in the book, and it would seem that all Fulani's characters share in this quest for inner tranquillity. But then, readers will agree, this quest for peace and security is a fundamental human desire.

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