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The New Moon's Arms Hardcover – February 23, 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
When an abandoned toddler appears on the shore of her Caribbean island home, Chastity Theresa Lambkin, aka "Calamity," becomes a foster mother in her 50s. Years previously, a one time, teenage experiment with a best friend unsure of his sexuality resulted in daughter Ifeoma. As Calamity, who narrates, now freely admits, Ifeoma bore the brunt of Calamity's immaturity, and their relationship still suffers for it. As Calamity relates all of this, things that have been missing for years inexplicably reappear, including an entire cashew tree orchard from Calamity's childhood that shows up in her backyard overnight. It could be island magic, or something much more prosaic. The rescued little boy's origins do have some genuinely magical elements (Calamity names him "Agway" after his foreign-sounding laughter), and Hopkinson's take on "sea people" and how they came to be adds depth and enchantment. Agway's presence, however, ratchets up the tension between Calamity and Ifeoma (who has a lovely son of her own, Stanley). Calamity proves emotionally adroit and winningly frank in a variety of situations (the men in her life have a preponderance of issues), and Hopkinson (The Salt Roads) gives her story a sassy, loving touch. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Calamity Lambkin has just buried her dadda when the kind of tingling she had as a child just before she found something that had been lost assails her. Since she also starts getting hot flashes, she would shrug the tingling off as another change-of-life symptom, except that she starts finding lost things again. One morning she finds an apparently orphaned toddler washed up on the beach. That little boy is the strongest fanciful--magic realist, if you will--element in the earthily charming story of a woman coming to know and accept herself for the first time. As narrator, Calamity is so persuasive that, until she awakens to the ways she has frustrated herself, readers may not know that they've been dying to snap her out of them, too. She is better than she thinks, and so are her daughter, her daughter's father, his lover, the men she woos, and the old friend she reconciles with over the boy from the sea. The West Indian-accented dialogue adds sweetness and color; Calamity's cussing, spice. Ray Olson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Top customer reviews
Not far in, however, the flashback sequences start and lend a truly mesmerizing element of magical realism to the story. There are really two stories coming to a meeting here, past and present interweaving to explain how this woman came to this place in her life, forcing her to move beyond events that have stifled her.
I also loved the fact that the main character wasn't another twenty-something, but a woman entering menopause. I was lucky enough to hear the author talk about this book, and that's quite an intentional and crucial aspect of the story. There's a scene early on in the story on the beach at night, with just the main character. It is, in my opinion, the best scene in the entire book - it lends a kind of magic to the story that only that character could bring, and she has to be a woman of some years for this to work. It sure damn did.
My only other criticism of the story is that it seemed to me to meander just a little bit toward the end, and the end didn't seem as developed as I would have liked.
Overall, for me, the glorious moments (the beach scene, the tree-climbing scene, the appearance of the cashew grove) more than made up for the parts that were 'only' good. Most writers should have such problems with their writing. I will definitely be reading more from this author.
It is never a dull moment with Calamity. Try as she might, she is losing the battle with Mother Nature and with the encroaching onset of menopause, she reawakens a unique, repressed childhood gift to find lost things. This gift, which hilariously coincides with tingling fingers and hot flashes at the most inopportune moments, results in remnants from the past literally falling from the sky triggering a reemergence of forgotten and sometimes painful memories. Following her father's funeral, Calamity partakes in a drinking binge to wallow in self-pity on the nearby beach. She awakens to discover a "lost" child has washed ashore covered in seaweed. Careful medical examination by her childhood friend-turned- tormentor, Dr. Chow, confirms that the child is a bit "different;'" and deliberately suppresses her suspicions that he is one of the mythical Sea People. When two similar adult bodies are discovered the next day, Calamity identifies with the orphan's apparent parental loss. She names him Agway; embraces and welcomes him into her home worsening her frail relationship with Ife even more.
To complicate matters further, she is suddenly overwhelmed by life: Her new love suggests opening the unsolved cold case surrounding her mother's disappearance; Ife's marriage is in shambles spawned by arguments with her husband surrounding the upcoming election and the heated political factions facing the island's tourist trade; Ife's father, her first love, comes to visit and brings his new lover; Stanley needs her assistance to complete his school project; endangered, indigenous seals are missing from the local zoo; and last, caring for a rambunctious three-year-old "merboy" who loves to eat raw shrimp is putting her close to the edge!
It may sound a bit convoluted but it is not; the author does an excellent job of lacing the plot threads together and it all comes together beautifully. It is a delightful, endearing story about family, loss, and reclamation. I absolutely loved the infusion of humor, African Diasporatic themes, West Indian culture, language, history, and folklore into the story. This is one of my favorite reads so far this year.
Reviewed by Phyllis
Nubian Circle Book Club