Til the Well Runs Dry
Secrets abound in Francis-Sharma’s sparkling debut novel. Marcia Garcia – pronounced so her first and last names rhyme – is a smart and sassy teenager in a small village in Trinidad in 1943. Her family has been beset by tragedy, and Marcia and two young boys are all that’s left; in her tiny hut she sews beautiful clothes for neighbors and politicians’ wives, catches possums to eat, and keeps the two boys out of trouble
Farouk Karam, an up-and-coming policeman from a town down the road, is first intrigued by, then besotted with, Marcia. Their love doesn’t easily cross religious and class boundaries, however, and both they and their children suffer. Although Marcia closely guards her family’s secrets, trouble continues to brew over the years of her relationship with Farouk, and his investigations into her past lead to painful and dangerous revelations. All Marcia wants is to keep her family safe and whole, but to do that she is forced to make tremendous sacrifices, learning more than she wants about the dark side of human nature along the way.
The story was inspired by Francis-Sharma’s desire to know more about her family’s roots in Trinidad, and its immigration to New York; she effectively evokes that longing to belong, to live a good life, both in the tiny villages in sunny, colorful Trinidad, and in the bustling yet impersonal cacophony of New York. Sober overtones of racial and gender violence, class oppression, and witchcraft haunt the narrative. Chapters are voiced by different characters, so we see the story unfold from multiple perspectives, all of which agree on one point: secrets can be very complicated to keep.