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How to Escape from a Leper Colony: A Novella and Stories Paperback – March 2, 2010

4.4 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The effects of colonialism throb in Yanique's vivid debut collection. The chilling title story is set in 1939, when the Trinidadian island of Chacachacare was still used as a leper colony; the narrator, a 14-year-old orphan with leprosy, befriends a curious boy her age, Lazaro, whose mother was murdered there when he was a baby, and whose troubled relationship with the nuns leads him to a terrible retribution. The Bridge Stories are elucidating snapshots of islanders struggling to carve out lives for themselves on St. Thomas and elsewhere amid an exploitative tourist economy. Yanique frequently dips into rich, fanciful vernacular, such as in Street Man, a beautiful, sad glimpse at a doomed love affair between a college student and a St. Croix local. In the affecting novella, International Shop of Coffins, Yanique depicts characters of mixed African/Creole/Indian descent torn between the white and island worlds in all their complexity and conflictedness. A smattering of dark humor leavens the tense narratives as Yanique penetrates the perils and pleasures of lives lived outside resort walls. (Mar.)
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From Booklist

In her debut short-story collection, Yanique, a native of the Virgin Islands, offers magical and mysterious tales about how people seek to or fail to penetrate the hard and soft differences between themselves. In the title story, inhabitants of an island leper colony must bear their disease and its isolation but cannot bear sacrilege. Interwoven stories of a bridge between islands illustrate how casually lives cross, though few connections are made for a woman in a burka, a fisherman, and a beauty queen. A St. Croix drug dealer takes up with a college girl who spends more than half the year in the U.S. Two women play out the intergenerational and mixed-race tensions between their families. A Ghanaian boy grows up in Britain struggling to overcome an emotional sickness that lingers into adulthood. A coffin shop in the Virgin Islands offers imported wares that are often works of art, evocative of life back in Ghana for the Catholic priest who frequents the shop and is its greatest source of business on his recommendations. Lovers of the form will appreciate this collection. --Vanessa Bush
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 184 pages
  • Publisher: Graywolf Press (March 2, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 155597550X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1555975500
  • Product Dimensions: 6.9 x 0.6 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #759,529 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A. Barnard on May 19, 2015
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Puzzling at times, yet Tiphanie Yanique's efforts to say something true and meaningful, and her generous view of her characters and their struggles won me over.
A relief to read this kind of thoughtful exploration of life in the Caribbean islands, especially St. Thomas.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I really like this writer's style. I sometimes enjoy reading short stories. This book was suggested via an interview with the writer on NPR some months ago.

When I finally got around to getting it I was surprised and delighted by the freshness of the author's point of view. The stories have the usual points of interest but are tinged a the unique taste of humor. Spicy but not too hot. Great!
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I thoroughly enjoyed this book. This author is excellent at her craft and I eagerly await her second novel. My favorites would have to be "The Bridge Stories" and "The International Shop of Coffins"
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Format: Kindle Edition
First, I admire Ms. Yanique's talent for writing. And, there were some parts of some of the stories that were actually intriguing, funny, or evocative - or sometimes all three. Unfortunately, those instances were very few in comparison to the things I don't like.

However, I'm left with nothing but a bitter taste after reading Leper Colony. I feel that there is an overwhelming bitterness to all the stories and characters and I find that very difficult to reconcile with real life. Typically, I find any fiction that is full of hard to like characters (and non-sympathetic ones, at that) difficult to read. Of course, there are hardships and sadness in life - but there seems to be a thread of utter despair and hopelessness that just leaves me cold and completely apathetic to the characters.

Furthermore, while having the diversity of cultures and character identities found in Leper Colony is admirable, it creates for me an unauthentic voice for all. Each story feels contrived and forced. Even, and especially, much of the dialogue is written poorly, in my opinion. It all seems so affected and overdone. I can appreciate the points that Ms. Yanique may have been trying to make about race, class, culture, and social struggles. However, it feels as though these stories were written as an experiment - "let me see how many issues I can write about in this short story"...so that every sentence and paragraph is fraught with an insincere heaviness. Perhaps if any one story were longer, and given the opportunity to develop over a longer period of time and the stories were able to evolve more subtly, I would feel more inclined to embrace this book.
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