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No Telephone to Heaven Paperback – March 1, 1996

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This book gives lyrical expression to some harsh truths, using a series of vivid flashbacks to highlight key moments in a young woman's lifelong quest for moral absolutes. Born into a light-skinned, landed family on the island of Jamaica, Clare Savage is compelled to inhabit a world that shifts between the demands of the black and white communities. Her adolescent years are spent in America, where her ambitious father encourages her to seize the opportunity to pass for white. Later studies at an English university further her feelings of alienation and she determines to return to Jamaica to seek her identity and her island heritage, a move which leads her to political activism and eventual tragedy. Though well-written and thoughtful, the novel focuses exclusively on Clare's difficulties, making no attempt to recall the small moments of triumph or joy that occur in even the most dismal lives. Without these, the protagonist seems a symbolic icon rather than a creature of flesh and spirit. Her journey toward selfhood seems more significant than the character herself.
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

One might expect a novel about Jamaica to be typical beach fare ("Come to Jamaica"), but Cliff depicts the island paradise as a powder keg. Clare, a light-skinned native, moves to New York City as a child, but her mother soon goes back home and dies shortly thereafter. Rebelling against her father's urgings to "pass" for her own good, Clare spends several rootless years in the States and studies Renaissance literature in England. Fascinated by her mother's and grandmother's culture and their reluctance to leave Jamaica despite bleak prospects, Clare returns as a young woman to a Jamaica she barely remembers. Not a romantic homecoming, Clare's experience is as unsettling as the Jamaica of the travelogues is lyrical. A glossary of Jamaican terms helps clarify the rich text. For wide-ranging fiction collections. Mary K. Prokop, CEL Regional Lib., Savannah, Ga.
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Plume; Reprint edition (March 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0452275695
  • ISBN-13: 978-0452275690
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #48,312 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Michelle Cliff was born in Jamaica and is the author of two previous novels, No Telephone to Heaven and Abeng; a collection of short stories, and two poetry collections. Her fiction, poetry, and esays have appeared in numerous publications, including Parnassus and the VLS.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 14, 2004
Format: Paperback
I'm a college student, and I feel quite priveledged to have been assigned this book to read for an English Literature class. Actually, that doesn't really make sense but I love my professor for it. This book totally rips the facade of the tourist's Jamaica, and allows the truth to be seen. It's full of binary relationships, between Clares mother and father, Clare vs Christopher, Harry/Harriet, Afro-caribbean and Afro-American, oppressed and oppressor. It's amazing to see the differences in the racism shown in Clare's time in New York and the racism in Jamaica. I completely identified with Clare's seeking her roots, and feeling like a drifter, untouchable, unfazeable. Get ready to be amazed, to come to terms with your own history and your own roots.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By latviete55 on December 21, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Not a straightforward story in time sequence, so if you like Toni Morrison you'll like this. The plot is about a young Jamaican woman's identity crisis--race, sex, class, politics, country--but what intrigued me the most was the very graphic descriptions of the "dungle" where the homeless women and children live, on top of a garbage heap surrounded by fencing, vs. the descriptions of the life of the wealthy in Jamaica, and how little they know about each other. The gap between rich and poor is horrendous,and Cliff does a great job getting into the minds and motivations of the unschooled, illiterate, unknown although everywhere poor. Time period is the 1950's-1980's; during the Manley/Marley years, violent political uprisings and the threat of revolution play an important role. Lots of great symbolism for English professors teaching Caribbean literature too.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 7, 2000
Format: Paperback
No Telephone to Heaven is one of the best cultural novels i have read this year. This non linear novel engulfs the reader in the adventures and struggles of its characters, demonstrating how culture and colonialism can bring people together and at the same time tear them apart. This deeply moving novel tells of the trials and tribulations of the protagonist, Clare and her inner struggle to seek connection and inner peace. It is wonderfully written and poetic. I finished the book in two sittings and highly reccomend it to those who enjoy novels of culture.
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11 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Newton Ooi on August 25, 2005
Format: Paperback
This book is about a girl, Clare, who is half white and half black. She is born in Jamaica and taken to America as a young child by her father. Her mixed heritage manifests itself in her skin color, thereby setting her apart from her peers in America. Not quite fulfilled by her life in Ameica, she moves back to Jamaica and encounters the poverty and hopelessness of the native blacks, along with hatred directed at her because she is lighter-skinned than the rest of them, and comes from a more privileged upbringing. At several points, Clare witnesses the despair and hatred breaking out into violence. One of these is when the mansion of a rich white man is burned down by poor blacks. Overall, the book is an interesting read, and shows how neither culture, American and Jamaican, are truly open and accepting, and what happens to someone who tries to fit into both.
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This is an interesting book to read, if you are taking a class on the "Literature of the Caribbean" course. An interesting book.
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