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Book Reviews
A Tall History of Sugar
By: Curdella Forbes - Akashic Books, $18.95

Description: A Tall History of Sugar tells the story of Moshe Fisher, a man who was born without skin, so that no one is able to tell what race he belongs to; and Arrienne Christie, his quixotic soul mate who makes it her duty in life to protect Moshe from the social and emotional consequences of his strange appearance.

Verdict: The narrative begins with Moshe’s birth in the late 1950s, four years before Jamaica’s independence from colonial rule, and ends in the era of what Forbes calls The fall of empire, the era of Brexit and Donald Trump.

The historical trajectory layers but never overwhelms the scintillating love story as the pair fight to establish their own view of loving, against the moral force of the colonial plantation and its legacies that continue to affect their lives and the lives of those around them.

Written in lyrical, luminous prose that spans the range of Jamaican English’s, this remarkable story follows the couple’s mysterious love affair from childhood to adulthood, from the haunted environs of rural Jamaica to the city of Kingston, and then to England — another haunted locale in Forbes’s rendition.

The way Forbes writes her prose means that it comes across, for the most part, charged with history’s disquiet and turbulence, whilst at the same time positioning her stance, her story slightly left-of-center; so as to not tread on anyone’s feet, so to speak.

Her words are almost rhythmic, her paragraphs ebb and flow with bountiful melodies, the love for the character’s, let alone their love within, never broken, never waning (although, of course, in the book dark times are bestowed).

Simply put, what Forbes does is tell a highly compelling, and dutiful love story of human complexity that is rooted in the overflowing ambiance of the history of Jamaica. It is also a story, a relationship, that freely speaks with such an ease, an articulate and vivaciously colorful beauty that, at times, the language seems even new, and yet at all times subtlety accessible.

Following on the footsteps of Marlon James’s debut novel, John Crow’s Devil, which Akashic Books published in 2005, Forbes, this lion of Jamaican literature, now brings us the mesmerizing A Tall History of Sugar.

Curdella Forbes Curdella Forbes was born in Jamaica and now lives in Takoma Park, Maryland. She teaches at Howard University. She is the author of A Tall History of Sugar which won the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for Fiction.

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