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Novel set in 1980s Kingston, JAMAICA

9th August 2022

What a Mother’s Love Don’t Teach You by Sharma Taylor, novel set in 1980s Kingston, Jamaica.

Novel set in 1980s Kingston, JAMAICA

This is a debut novel from a gifted writer. She has set her novel in 1980s Kingston, Jamaica and has an array of individual and oftentimes colourful characters.

The novel opens with Dinah’s story, a young woman working in the household of an American couple, who then finds herself pregnant. When the family relocates back to the USA, they take her baby with them, given that Dinah has few resources and is caring for Mama. It seems a pragmatic solution and they bring him up as their own. Dinah lives in the poverty stricken ghetto of Lazarus Gardens, where gang leaders hold sway, drugs are traded and politicians meddle. There is violence and coercion but Dinah knows her way around and just gets on with her life, whilst keeping the memory of son alive. He is buried deep in her heart.

Eighteen years later, Apollo arrives in Kingston and Dinah recognises him as her son. She has no doubt. As he finds his feet, he starts to visit her, much to the chagrin of his parents, who have brought him back to his roots. Given his clearly wealthy background, he has to carefully negotiate his way through the a wholly different social niveau. There is darkness, there are rules he has to learn, but there is always colour.

There are several parts to the story and each chapter is told from one character’s perspective. Yes, there are many people to get to know but the author is talented at melding people from all kinds of backgrounds into a cohesive story – which certainly takes some doing! Some of the narrative is in patois, which on the one hand takes a little effort to understand but on the other adds authenticity to the unfolding events.

It is a story with humanity and ultimately about what it means to belong. It is also very good on setting and this is certainly not the Jamaica that most tourists would see.

Tina for the TripFiction Team

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