Friday, December 20, 2019

Africaville by Jeffrey Colvin

Category: Adult fiction
Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Pages: 384 pages
Published: December 2019 

Structured as a triptych, Africaville chronicles the lives of three generations of the Sebolt family—Kath Ella, her son Omar/Etienne, and her grandson Warner—whose lives unfold against the tumultuous events of the twentieth century from the Great Depression of the 1930s, through the social protests of the 1960s to the economic upheavals in the 1980s.

A century earlier, Kath Ella’s ancestors established a new home in Nova Scotia. Like her ancestors, Kath Ella’s life is shaped by hardship—she struggles to conceive and to provide for her family during the long, bitter Canadian winters. She must also contend with the locals’ lingering suspicions about the dark-skinned “outsiders” who live in their midst.

Kath Ella’s fierce love for her son, Omar, cannot help her overcome the racial prejudices that linger in this remote, tight-knit place. As he grows up, the rebellious Omar refutes the past and decides to break from the family, threatening to upend all that Kath Ella and her people have tried to build. Over the decades, each successive generation drifts further from Africaville, yet they take a piece of this indelible place with them as they make their way to Montreal, Vermont, and beyond, to the deep South of America.

As it explores notions of identity, passing, cross-racial relationships, the importance of place, and the meaning of home, Africaville tells the larger story of the black experience in parts of Canada and the United States. Vibrant and lyrical, filled with colorful details, and told in a powerful, haunting voice, this extraordinary novel—as atmospheric and steeped in history as The Known World, Barracoon, The Underground Railroad, and The Twelve Tribes of Hattie—is a landmark work from a sure-to-be major literary talent.

Africaville by Jeffrey Colvin is a fictional, generational story that centers on the Sebolt and Platt families. Over the course of nearly 400 pages, the author takes us on a journey of this black family and their struggles with race, gender and other societal issues. The result is a detailed and creative novel based on historical facts that were well researched by the author. 

My reading journey with this book started slowly. It was a little difficult for me to get into at first; however, I did find the storylines of Kath Ella, her son Omar/Etienne, and her grandson Warner to be engaging. I think the author did an excellent job of capturing the feel of the various time periods presented in the novel. I also appreciated his ability to vividly describe scenes without overwhelming the reader with dialogue.

The most challenging aspect of the book for me was the abrupt changes in perspective and flashbacks in time. Sometimes it took me a couple of paragraphs to re-orient myself then I'd have to go back and reread passages to get a fuller understanding. I forged ahead because of my commitment to provide a thorough review. However, if this book was one that I had picked up for leisure reading, I probably would have given up on it, which would have been a shame because the overall story was compelling. I wonder how different the novel might have been if it was divided and each generation of Sebolts/Platts had his or her own novel.

Recommendation This is a valiant debut novel, and I think the author has a promising future in creative writing. I'd recommend this read when you have time to really delve into it.

Until next time ... Read on!

Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful.

Jeffrey Colvin served in the United States Marine Corps and is a graduate of the United States Naval Academy, Harvard University, and Columbia University, where he received an MFA in fiction. His work has appeared in Narrative, Hot Metal Bridge, Painted Bride Quarterly, Rain Taxi Review of Books, The Millions, The Brooklyn Rail, and elsewhere. He is a member of the National Book Critics Circle and is an assistant editor at Narrative magazine. He lives in New York City.

Connect with Jeffrey: 
December 13: Kahakai Kitchen
December 18: Amy’s Book-et List
December 20: A Page Before Bedtime <--- You are here.

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1 comment:

  1. Thank you for being on this tour! Sara @ TLC Book Tours