Tropic of Violence

. Graywolf. May 2020. 160p. from French by Geoffrey Strachan. ISBN 9781644450246. pap. $16. LITERARY.
After two recent stunners, The Last Brother and Waiting for Tomorrow, the Mauritian-born, French-based Appanah returns to cement her reputation as a leading world writer. The setting is Mayotte, an island in the Mozambique Channel (and a départment of France) suffering from the poverty and violence that seem inevitably a legacy of postcolonialism. Outspoken nurse Marie, separated from her husband and desperate for a child, accepts a baby with bicolored eyes shoved at her by a superstitious refugee. She names him Moïse and raises him lovingly but dies when he is a teenager, her spirit remaining to help narrate the tragedy that unfolds in this multivoiced work. Joined by his beloved dog, the gentle Moïse ends up in a corrosively ugly slum called Gaza with a children’s gang led by the cruel and bullying Bruce.
VERDICT Appanah’s heartrending, insightful story makes us understand--and feel--the steps leading toward bloody confrontation in this relentless world.


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