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Redemption in Indigo: a novel Paperback – July 6, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Lord's debut, a retelling of a Senegalese folktale, packs a great deal of subtly alluring storytelling into this small package. Paama flees her gluttonous husband, Ansige; two years later, he hires the master tracker Kwame to find her. Kwame reluctantly takes the job to finance his own wanderlust. These events draw the attention of the Indigo Lord, one of the powerful spirits called Djombi. He wielded the power of Chaos until it was taken from him and given to Paama, and he wants it back. An unnamed narrator, sometimes serious and often mischievous, spins delicate but powerful descriptions of locations, emotions, and the protagonists' great flaws and great strengths as they interact with family, poets, tricksters, sufferers of tragedy, and—of course—occasional moments of pure chaos. (June)
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*Starred Review* Lord is Barbadian, and her first novel retells a Senegalese legend, setting it in a world not unlike the village West Africa of Ousmane Sembène's films. In it, humans and the undying spirits of such qualities as patience and chance as well as of tricksters, great (a spider, of course) and lesser, interact. In little Makende, Paama, who is a great cook, has returned to her family after 10 years of marriage to the gluttonous Ansige. To chastise Chance, Patience has seized the Chaos Stick, which can alter human disasters if seldom dispel them, and decided to give it to Paama. Chance's elaborate efforts to induce Paama to give it back to him constitute the principal strain of the plot, from which the narrator diverges in every other chapter to account for other characters who impinge on the main action. A great deal happens in the novel's relatively short course, but confusion is minimal because Lord has found the ideal voice for the narrator—feminine yet authoritative, amusing yet soothing, omniscient yet humble. This is one of those literary works of which it can be said that not a word should be changed. --Ray Olson
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“All my tales are true, drawn from life, and a life story is not a tidy thing.”
My favorite thing about Redemption in Indigo was the focus on storytelling and the narrative voice. The unnamed narrator speaks in first person, sometimes addressing the reader directly, mimicking the feel and tradition of oral storytelling. What really makes this work is the subtle humor that shines through the narrator’s voice.
“You must never tell people their own stories. They have no interest in them, or they think they can tell them better themselves. Give them a stranger’s life, and then they’re content.”
Redemption in Indigo isn’t fast paced or packed with action. Instead, it’s a comfortable book. There’s a sense of warmth to it, and wisdom as well. And despite the occasional mentions of modern conveniences, Redemption in Indigo has a sense of timelessness to it.
I also liked Paama as a heroine. She’s brave, hard working, and resilient, and she triumphs more due to her determination and strong moral center than to any more typical means. Throughout the story, she’s shown the petty sides of humanity, often embodied in her lazy and gluttonous husband, but she continues to believe in the good in people.
Redemption in Indigo is a very different sort of fantasy story, but it is one well worth reading.
I love the narrative style of this book – it takes the folktale inspiration and runs with it, it’s just like a storyteller was sitting in the room with you and telling you a story. We meander back and forth in time and point of view, and the narrator is quite opinionated at times. Paama is a terrific heroine, she’s calm, kind, and intuitively knows that the best thing to do with power is not use it. She’s also pragmatic – when the djombi threatens her family and asks her to give him the stick, she immediately hands it over. Of course, things aren’t that simple, since she actually has to believe that he’s the better person to wield it, and that’s the titular “redemption” of the story.
On the surface this story seems really simple, but there are a lot of layers and side plots – Anansi’s troubles with tricking people (yes, Anansi’s in this book!), Paama’s self-centered sister and her search for an eligible husband, the extremely competent House of Sisters that help Paama out. There’s not a lot of time spent of these, but they’re full of heart and the author’s deft characterization makes the characters seem like people you know pretty well.
Redemption in Indigo is very different from the other Karen Lord book I’ve read, The Best of All Possible Worlds, but it’s just as warm and well-told.
Highly recommended for those who don't need to be explicitly told the why's, and wherefores of a story, and instead allow themselves to be swept away by the writers intentions. I have already begun her second novel.