From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. This elegant, passionate, elliptical memoir of self-exploration and revelation transports the reader well beyond its origins as a series of Harvard lectures. The title is an allusion to novelist and MacArthur fellow Marshall's (The Fisher King
) geographic, intellectual and emotional triangulation among the peoples and locales that shaped her—Barbados and Grenada; the Bajan community of Brooklyn; and Africa. Marshall begins with a 1965 State Department–sponsored tour of Europe in the company of her idol, Langston Hughes, when she was a young author and civil rights activist. The book continues as a meditation on Bodies of Water (the theme of the original lecture series) as diverse as the James River, the principal port of entry for African slaves in the 18th century, and the Caribbean. Among other personal stories that give her book artistic flair are Marshall's early encounter with the redoubtable editor Hiram Haydn; her disturbing experience with another editor, who was giddy over her upcoming tour of a Virginia plantation (Our association ended shortly thereafter, Marshall writes drily); and her father's odd devotion to Father Divine. When the USIS again taps Marshall, this time for a mission to Nigeria, the reception she and other U.S. representatives elicit from some of their hosts—welcome combined with shame over their ancestors' complicity in the slave trade—is revelatory. 6 illus. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
All reviewers were highly interested in a memoir by Marshall, an author critically praised but not well known. While praising the book as a whole, they disagreed on the overall effectiveness of Marshall’s technique. Some reviewers felt that structuring the book as a series of essays emphasized Marshall’s focused prose and unique voice. Others argued that readers would have been better served by a more developed, chronological autobiography. But the message of most reviewers was that readers should get to know Marshall better, and all hoped that this brief glimpse into her life would be a means to that end.
Copyright 2009 Bookmarks Publishing LLC