From Publishers Weekly
Racial discord and family strife shadow this dense, moody tale of a black family and its troubles settling into a new town in Alberta, Canada. In 1968, soft-spoken West African–born Samuel Tyne inherits his reclusive Uncle Jacob's mansion in the town of Aster, formerly settled by black families out of Oklahoma. Stifled in his Calgary civil service job and hoping for a second chance at happiness, Samuel hastily relocates Maud, his crass, chilly wife, and their sneering, eccentric, "stone-like" twin daughters, Chloe and Yvette. Introverted Ama, the twins' asthmatic school friend, joins them for the summer, but soon grows terrified of everyone. As his home life becomes increasingly troubling, Samuel tinkers away in his new electronics repair shop, devising a computer prototype. Meanwhile, embittered Maud finds herself powerless against the increasingly menacing (and indistinguishable) twins, whose torturous treatment of Ama becomes the springboard for more hideous violence. Neighbors like Ray and Eudora Frank, a blunt, imposing couple-about-town, and rumored warlock Saul Porter, are friendly at first, but reveal their true colors after a fiery conclusion pits neighbor against neighbor, and vicious storefront vandalism returns Samuel to his "graveyard of an empty life." Edugyan's elegiac, shimmering prose makes up for the lack of sunny skies in this impressively conceived and well-executed debut.
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Samuel Tyne was a promising student who emigrated from West Africa to England and ended up as a bureaucrat in Canada. Married to a fellow West African emigre, father of twin adolescent daughters, Tyne longs to break out of the inertia of his life. He leaps at the chance for escape presented by an inheritance from his uncle Jacob, who had accompanied Samuel from Africa to America, then lived a reclusive life in the small town of Aster, a town founded by American blacks escaping slavery and racism in the U.S. Reinventing himself as an electronics-shop owner and tinkerer with computing machines, Samuel expects to find personal liberation and a second chance at life. Instead, the crumbling mansion and small town compound the sullenness of his wife and daughters. The girls' summer companion, Ama, is the first to note the troubling changes in the twins, long used to creating their own world. Edugyan's beautifully rendered first novel offers a haunting look at personal longing and family obligations. Vanessa BushCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved