Land of Love and Drowning
If I could only read one novel this year, Land of Love and Drowning would be it. I wasn’t captured by the first page, or even the first ten pages, but I was a goner before I realized it, highlighting passages and reading them aloud to anyone who would listen. It’s a deft mix of magic and reality—love and drowning—so beautifully written that the ample dialect goes down without even a hint of annoyance.
Two orphaned sisters, Eeona and Anette Bradshaw, and their half-brother, Jacob Esau McKenzie, live on St. Thomas, American Virgin Islands. The story begins on March 31, 1917, when Denmark transferred authority over what are now the U.S. Virgin Islands to the United States. It ends in about 1970, four babies and as many lovers later, when the sisters’ lives, as well as their parents’, are already legend because their stories contain metaphors of myth. There are whispers of Obeah, the islands’ voodoo, or perhaps the sisters’ magic is simply the power of self-confident youth and beauty. Either way, the sisters know their own power, their ability to curse their loved ones or to bless them. They use that power sometimes thoughtlessly. They long for fulfillment and make love in a world far different than ours and yet familiar, because we see it through their eyes.
Yanique writes, near the beginning of the book: “Family will always kill you—some bit by bit, others all at once. It is the love that does it.” Recommended.