Pantheon. May 2017. 256p. ISBN 9781101871614. $25.95; ebk. ISBN 9781101871621. F
OrangeReviewStarIn 2014, Jamaican author Miller's The Cartographer Tries To Map a Way to Zion won the Forward Prize for Best Poetry, and Miller's new novel uses assured poetic language to create important historical intersections and strong, realistic characters. The poor Jamaican town of the title features many interesting figures, including Ma Taffy, who is raising grandnephew Kaia; Clarky, the fruit-selling Rastaman; and Bedward, the sinner-turned-saint, who levitated before the eyes of his congregation. The book opens with Kaia returning home from school, his long locs completely gone after his ill-tempered teacher shaved them off, knowing their importance in Rasta culture. The style recalls magical realism, but the novel as a whole is more a blend of folklore representing Africans of the diaspora and their creative use of mythos to survive hardship. Miller also explores Jamaica's racial and economic rifts and the ensuing violence without being preachy, instead working through his characters' experiences.
VERDICT Highly recommended, and not just for lovers of African and Caribbean folklore. This book will appeal to a wide range of readers interested in fiction that's grounded in community.
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