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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Book, September 21, 2009
This review is from: The Fullness of Everything (Paperback)
This book tells the truth about Jamaicans who come to this country, trying to forget the reality of living in a third world country. It also reveals the deep secrets that families have harbored for long periods of time. The author displays the raw feeling that Winston has towards his family and himself. This book also reminds me of my family that also comes from Jamaica. I can relate with the characters in this fictional novel. This book is excellent!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Redemption via Psychological Surrealism, July 13, 2009
C. J. Singh (Berkeley, California, USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Fullness of Everything (Paperback)
Patricia Powell's "The Fullness of Everything" is a brilliant, engrossing literary novel about redemption via psychological surrealism.

Two middle-aged brothers, Winston and Septimus, succeed in redeeming themselves by opening blocked communication channels to their parents, siblings, lovers, and children. Winston, the older brother, begins his self-psychotherapy when his live-in lover, Maria Jose, a Christian scientist, introduces him to "coning," described by the omniscient narrator as: "Basically prayer, though not in the conventional way. It wasn't between you and God. . . . It was between you, your higher self and an entire council of beings, guardian angels she called them. And where was God, he wanted to know, too busy? One by one she invited them to come: the over-lighting deva who was supposed to be the head angel in charge of healing ..." (p 42).

Winston, a tenured professor of history, soon tires of that sort of channeling, but the experience prompts him to engage in self-analysis and later to experience his dreams as surreal events. The novel artfully blends drama, psychological realism, and psychological surrealism. Although the current term for the latter strand in fiction is "magical realism," I propose psychological surrealism as the more accurate term --on epistemological and ontological grounds.

The novel begins with Winston's opening -- after five days of reluctance -- a telegram from his family back in Jamaica about his father's imminent death. For twenty-five years, since he left for the US, he has chosen not to communicate with them because as a child he was often brutally beaten by his father. Now, he calls his mother. "Mother, he cries, cutting through the bitter harangue, mother, and much to his surprise he finds himself telling her he will come, just like that. . . . Finally after eight sessions with Dr. Wolf at University Services, he bought a ticket for the Christmas break. He bought a gold watch too for his father, another for his brother, and a necklace with pearl inlay for his mother" (p 11). Lacking the courage to go by himself, he persuades Maria Jose to accompany him.

At the airport, they are met by his brother, Septimus, an undertaker. Replying to his inquiry about the father, Septimus says: "Who, the old Lion? his brother cries . . . pealing with laughter. Pa's going to outlive us all, man, mark my words. Outlive us all" (p 20). Throughout the novel, Powell eschews quotation marks while skillfully merging dialogue with narrative exposition.

At home, Winston goes up to greet his father: "To this day, he still doesn't remember what he'd said to his father. He doesn't remember what had ignited it. But he must've back-answered him: he must've said something nasty. Immediately a shriek tore across his father's face and his father's fist shot out knocking him across the room. Windows whizzed by . . . His mother was wailing and clawing at her hair. Yes, she said, yes, you kill him now. You kill him with your anger and your violence. And who will it be next? Who?" (p 22).

Winston observes that his father, Mass Samm, is raising at home a nine-year old girl he had sired, his "outside" daughter, Rosa. Not only that, Mass Samm also sired at least two other outsiders, each named Sammy "whose ears jutted out like wings" like their father's. Winston develops affection for Rosa -- she reminds him of his sister, Althea, who had been killed in a traffic accident at age thirteen. He helps Rosa locate her mother, a barmaid, who, in her early teens, was seduced and raped by Mass Samm. Winston decides to take Rosa back to the USA to raise her. He much wanted children of his own, but Maria Jose was not interested. Rosa's matter-of-fact descriptions of her surrealistic visions draw Winston into opening up to his own inner thoughts and dream visions. This process gradually allows him to learn to forgive his father and the rest of his family members as the path to achieve redemption.

Powell's consummate narrative skills show throughout the engaging novel. Here's a depiction of the enervating Jamaican heat:

"In the middle of the day when the sun is at its zenith, the light at its whitest, when there is no breeze at all stirring the world and all God's creatures have come to a complete full stop -- the dog is fast asleep under the mango tree, its mouth bubbling with foam; the cat is curled up underneath the bed licking herself slowly and yawning; the birds have taken refuge down by the river; the rooster is too stunned to crow; the cows have fallen to their knees in the fields; the flies don't even bother to move out of the way of the swatter; the mosquitoes land on your arm and forget to sip.... Rosa, home early from school, is engaged in a deep and complicated conversation with one of her dolls, a cloth one named Stella. And he [Winston], too, is there resting on a bed of soft dried needles, trying to read" (p 65).

Artfully blending drama, psychological realism, and psychological surrealism, Patricia Powell's "The Fullness of Everything" is an excellent literary novel of redemption without a trace of sentimentality. -- C J Singh
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The Fullness of Everything
The Fullness of Everything by Patricia Powell (Paperback - June 1, 2009)
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