88. REDEMPTION IN INDIGO, BY KAREN LORD
Recommended by Diego, who actually went as far as buying it and giving it to me, to make sure I would read it. His passion surely is commendable. I normally skip introductions and go straight to the story, but this should not be done with this book. The introduction is part of the story, more like a prologue.
Synopsis: After successfully disentangling herself from her foolish and gluttonous husband, Paama is entrusted by the djombi with the Chaos Stick, a tool capable of controlling the chances that something will happen. The original owner of the Stick is not happy with this, however, and, failing to take it by force, attempts to convince her to give it up, learning a lesson in the process.
Overall enjoyment: It is very good. It has a different structure than you would usually see in fantasy, and is based on a Senegalese folk tale (just a very small part of the story, though, not the whole thing). It has a different feel to it, and it’s very charming and somewhat humorous.
Plot: The first few chapters show Paama dealing with her husband, Asinge. That is the part based on a folk tale. It is somewhat detached from the rest of the book, and it feels like an extended prologue; it could be said that the story takes too long to start and wastes too much time with characters and occurrences that don’t really matter. On the other hand, it is delightful to read, and plays right into the atmosphere being created, so it really doesn’t feel like a flaw.
Characters: They are a bit exaggerated. The central ones, like Paama, Kwame, and the Indigo Lord, have more complex personalities but exaggerated characteristics (Paama with her cooking and her goodness, Kwame with his tracking, the Indigo Lord with his impulsiveness). The background ones are superficial to the point of being symbols. Which is, of course, the whole point.
World/setting: It doesn’t really play a big part on the story, which was surprising and gratifying. There are a few cultural elements, like myth and food, but no interminable landscape descriptions, so common in novels set anywhere other than Europe or America. It truly embraces the “universalism through regionalism” concept: something so culturally specific it becomes universal.
Writing style: Amazingly oral. It really feels like you’re having the story told to you, instead of reading it. The narrator is supremely omniscient, witty, and full of life lessons, from the introduction to the epilogue. This oral tradition is also mentioned in the course of the book.
Representation: It covers a lot, as you would expect.
Political correctness: This is an interesting one. The whole book is about choices and consequences; it’s an allegory, so the behavior of each character shouldn’t be taken at face value.
Up next: The Invention of Wings, by Sue Monk Kidd