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Redemption in Indigo: a novel Paperback – July 6, 2010

4.3 out of 5 stars 28 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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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From Booklist

*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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Product Details

  • Paperback: 188 pages
  • Publisher: Small Beer Press (July 6, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1931520666
  • ISBN-13: 978-1931520669
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #513,964 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
It's hard to go up against two starred reviews from twp prestigious review journals, plus a perfect five from everyone else. But I'm trying to be honest here.

I loved the first several chapters. For me, the story began to unravel somewhere in the middle. For one thing, the use of magic seemed excessive and injudicious. The magical characters (djombis) flit through time and space, foretell the future, erase the memories of those they encounter, conjure great wealth, disguise themselves as animals and insects, shape shift, etc. etc. When characters can do just about anything, I stop taking them seriously. One of these characters confesses that he can't "read minds." Yet, he does everything else. Shortly thereafter this same character tells in great detail what's going to become of a certain little boy. With these kinds of powers, it hardly matters if he can't read minds. The future's already known.

There's no real conflict in this story, partly because the magical characters are so overwhelming but also because it's hard to tell what some of the characters really want. We're told over and over what an extraordinary woman Paama is, but I wasn't feeling it. Certain plot elements are introduced, but not developed: the brooch, the dreaming pillow, the Sisters, even the chaos stick which is only used once. We never really get to see what it can do.

Yet the voice of the narrator is charming and the humor, at times, is delightful. And there's a compassionate spirit that permeates the book. But overall, for me, a frustrating read.
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Format: Paperback
What a wonderful novel this is! It is utterly enchanting from beginning to end, truly a pleasure to read. Both editorial reviews mention that this book is a retelling of a folktale, which is wrong. The first few chapters retell the tale of our heroine Paama, yes, but after that Paama's adventures are of the author's invention. And what invention! A surprising array of delightful characters, human and otherwise, make appearances in this deceptively slim novel, but really this is Paama's story. Paama is not THE chosen one of destiny, on a quest to do a deed, but rather A chosen one, still free to make her own choices, on a quest to try to learn which choice to make. This is a fantasy not about being a winner, but about living your life, living well in the face of adversity. As such, for all its antic moments, this slight novel is in the end much more satisfying than any number of the sort of relentlessly grim, heavy, often cynical fantasies that are so popular these days. And all the book's adventures, the whimsical and the weighty, are perfectly related by the narrator, a masterfully digressive and captivating storyteller (although I did not get the "feminine yet authoritative," whatever that means, mentioned in a review above). This is a charming novel that inspired more laughs and smiles than anything else I've read in some time, yet also had enough substance that it was more than a mere amusette. Highly recommended.
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Format: Audible Audio Edition
Published by Small Beer Press in July 2010 and on several year's best fantasy lists, Karen Lord's Redemption in Indigo finally arrived at Audible on June 15, courtesy of a Recorded Books production, narrated by Robin Miles. Miles has 56 Audible titles to her credit, but this was my first, though her 2010 narration of Ekaterina Sedia's The House of Discarded Dreams is waiting for me on my wish list for one of these days. Redemption in Indigo is a short listen at a shade under six and a half hours, and it's well worth discovering. The overall arc of the story comes under the frame of a storyteller relating the events, complete with asides (such as "we'll learn more about this later") and informalities (such as "let us skip forward through time a bit so as to miss the boring parts") and footnotes and digressions. The story comes across in a playful, light way, the way of an elder telling a favorite story around a village campfire. This is a wonderful change of pace not just from the battlefields and seriousness of much of the rest of fantasy these days, but also in its leisurely pace, delighting on simple surroundings imbued with the mythological references which have been passed down through the generations. As a work of oral storytelling goes, this one's a keeper, and I'm glad I was able to enjoy it in this format.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I read fantasy and science fiction, in part, to expose my mind to new perspectives, to the situations of people with very different backgrounds to my own, who nevertheless have a basic kinship to me so that I can identify with their struggles. It seems natural, then, to expand my reading beyond British and American writers of European descent, and take in some fiction by people of different cultural and ethnic backgrounds from my own.

There's a small, but flourishing, group of Caribbean writers of African descent working in SFF at the moment, and I'm starting to read their work and, so far, finding it excellent. I very much enjoyed N.K. Jemison's first book, and this work of Karen Lord's is just as good. The language, for instance, is highly competent, more so than in all but a few books I read (like me, Lord has a degree in English language, and it shows). Even though it's told in the voice of a traditional storyteller, with the simplicity and directness of style that implies, it's a beautiful simplicity and directness. It's also flawlessly edited - meaning, most likely, that it was close to flawless when it was submitted.

The narrator's voice is very much present, saying things like "Perhaps I will tell you about it later, if we have the time." That's unusual in current writing, where the fashion is for a third-person narrative that tries to make the narrator disappear, and shows us the events from the perspective of the participants without quite using their first-person voices. (YA and urban fantasy are frequently exceptions, pulling out the full first-person perspective.) I found this evident narrator, displaying biases and assumptions openly, a refreshing change.
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