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From Harvey River: A Memoir of My Mother and Her Island Paperback – March 3, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Goodison, an acclaimed poet who received Jamaica's Musgrave Gold Medal in 1999, makes lyrical exposition sing with dulcet island patois in this homage to her mother, Doris, who grew up in the sleepy Eden-like setting of Harvey River, but raised her own nine children in urban Kingston under less coddled conditions. Starting on a supernal note, in which Doris bequeaths this book to her daughter in a dream, the memoir draws a richly textured portrait of a sprawling, well-to-do family, including seven strong-willed siblings with deftly sketched personas. As plump and pretty as a ripe ox-heart tomato, Doris—whose Anglo-African blood attests to Jamaica's history of interracial dalliance—joins her sisters in the clique of fabulous Harvey girls, their surnames trumpeting the family's landed-gentry status. But it's a working-class chauffeur—the author's father—who wins Doris's hand in marriage. Borne away from her childhood idyll, she takes in her first moving picture, produces a succession of offspring and plies her domestic skills, especially sewing, gamely weathering the vicissitudes of life outside paradise. Steeped in local lore and spiced with infectious dialect and ditties, Goodison's memoir reaches back over generations to evoke the mythic power of childhood, the magnetic tug of home and the friction between desire and duty that gives life its unexpected jolts. (Mar.)
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Review

“Being introduced to the cast of ‘From Harvey River’ is like sitting down at the family dining table. You’ll stay for the day then on into the evening as each new character pulls up a chair. You could not be in better company.” (New York Times Book Review)

“Goodison’s memoir reaches back over generations to evoke the mythic power of childhood, the magnetic tug of home, and the friction between desire and duty that gives life its unexpected jolts.” (Publishers Weekly (starred review))

“[A] loving memoir.” (New York Times Book Review Paperback Row)

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Amistad; Reprint edition (March 3, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061337560
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061337567
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,465,157 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Dera R Williams VINE VOICE on July 18, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Poet and college professor Lorna Goodison brings a heartwarming story of family life and community in the memoir of her beloved birthplace, Jamaica, in From Harvey River: A Memoir of My Mother and Her Island. Goodison's great-grandfather, Englishman William Harvey, and his brother founded and built the community of Harvey River in 1840. William married Frances Duhaney, despite being told that black women were acceptable as concubines but not as wives. Their son, David, was a self-taught lawyer, who served his village for many years acting as legal counsel. His daughter, Doris, Goodison's mother, was one of the "fabulous Harvey Girls."

The five Harvey sisters benefited from their family name; they were respected in the community and were expected to conduct themselves as ladies at all times. One time Doris was bathing in the river and a young man visiting from another town did not give her the privacy required. Well, that young man was called upon by David Harvey, Doris' father, and her brothers, at his relatives' home, and made to understand that the Harvey girls were held in high esteem. When they went into the main town of Lucea, all the young men turned out to gaze upon and win the charms of the sisters. Their maternal grandfather was an Irishman who later came to live with the family in his later years and one of their grandmothers was a Guinea woman who was said to have mystical powers. Such an illustrious ancestral background made for much family folklore, superstitions and unity.

For awhile after Doris married Marcus Goodison, life was good, but when the author was a young girl in the 1930s, the family's fortunes turned and they were forced to move to Kingston to find work.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Melissa S. on April 26, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Ms. Goodison manages to do what a great many writers hope to do but seldom achieve - produce work that is illuminating and engaging. This is a beautifully written book filled with rich, authentic descriptions of Jamaican life and offers an often candid view of her family and people. As such, whether you are from the Caribbean or not, I think that readers will be able to relate to the more universal themes of love, loss, triumph and growth and will become personally invested in Ms. Goodison's story.

In addition, Harvey River provides a great historical context in terms of geography and social mores of that country and I learned a great deal. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and intend to share with my friends and family. Well done!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Rosa J. Hilliard on June 2, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book was a great read. If gave me insight to life in Jamacia. Not the The characters were human with all the foibles that go along with being human. You could see all the good, the bad, and the ugly of life, the weather, the living conditions, and the history that makes up island life. I truly enjoyed the pictures enclosed identifying some of the people i nthe book. All in all I would recommend this book to those who enjoy historical reads.

I think the books rates a 4.5.
I know I should have given it 5 stars but I tend to give very few 5 stars.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By M. Thomas on September 19, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Lorna Goodison has produced a brilliant work which is highly authentic. The stories within this story are very recognizable and reminded me of pieces of Jamaican life I haven't remembered for well over 30 years. Ms. Goodison also manages to interweave very useful historical information yet the reader often forgets that this is a memoir. It engages from the start. FROM HARVEY RIVER is a thing of beauty.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Loraine R on April 3, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Deep in the recesses of my childhood memories, I can conjure up the word 'rookumbine'. I vaguely know that it's the name of a song, but memory eludes me even after reading the words on page 12 of Lorna Goodison's lyrical tribute to growing up in Jamaica. Her story of four generations of her family, who gave Harvey River (near Lucea, Hanover) its name, crafts a lovingly evocative portrait of Jamaican traditions, customs and folklore. When her parents encounter financial difficulties and are forced to leave their well-appointed home in Malvern, St. Elizabeth to take up residence in a tenement yard on Orange Street in Kingston, hard times become their everyday reality, and their former comfortable life becomes a dream world to which they can never return. The author's mother, Doris, the central focus of the memoir, is an awe-inspiring vision of the selfless strength and devotion of Jamaican motherhood in all its glory. This book brought back tender memories of childhood, of duppy stories, rolling calves and other terrors, and lots of distinctly Jamaican pleasures I hadn't even known I'd forgotten. While it was a delightful trip down memory lane for me, this beautifully crafted and engaging account of the joys and sorrows of four generations of the author's family holds immeasurable cross-cultural appeal.
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By Hack Steele on March 24, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This memorial to a big family (the Magnificent Harveys), a country and a way of life now sadly past is chock full of every ingredient one wants from a book-- illustrative history, exquisite writing, tragedy, comedy, wisdom and a narrative pull that carries you along like Jamaica's Harvey River, which figures so prominently in the lives of the author's family. The pleasures Lorna Goodison sets before her readers are so rich that you really don't want the book to end. This is a modern classic and should become a book for the ages.
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