Enter your mobile number below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
Getting the download link through email is temporarily not available. Please check back later.

  • Apple
  • Android
  • Windows Phone
  • Android

To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.

FREE Shipping on orders with at least $25 of books.
In Stock.
Ships from and sold by Amazon.com. Gift-wrap available.
Unburnable has been added to your Cart
FREE Shipping on orders over $25.
Condition: Used: Good
Have one to sell? Sell on Amazon
Flip to back Flip to front
Listen Playing... Paused   You're listening to a sample of the Audible audio edition.
Learn more
See all 2 images

Unburnable Paperback – April 24, 2007

4.2 out of 5 stars 45 customer reviews

See all 9 formats and editions Hide other formats and editions
New from Used from
"Please retry"
"Please retry"
$7.63 $0.01
Audio CD
"Please retry"

Featured Titles in Fiction
Things Fall Apart
Things Fall Apart
Things Fall Apart
$14.99 FREE Shipping on orders with at least $25 of books. In Stock. Ships from and sold by Amazon.com. Gift-wrap available.
click to open popover

Frequently Bought Together

  • Unburnable
  • +
  • Annie John: A Novel
Total price: $23.49
Buy the selected items together

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

John takes readers into Caribbean culture and contemporary black America to explore family and oppression in this affecting but flawed debut novel. Lillian, a 30-something native of Dominica, now an activist in Washington, D.C., suffered a breakdown at 14 after discovering the identity of her birth mother, Iris: the beautiful, insane village prostitute whose own mother, the famous healer Matilda, was convicted of multiple murder and hung. Sent to live with her aunt in New York, Lillian grows up shielded from her history, avoiding troubling questions about herself and keeping friends distant. Her only real friend is Teddy Morgan, a self-absorbed historian she's pined after since their college days. Twenty years after leaving Dominica, Lillian is determined to return, in hopes of learning what happened to her mother, grandmother and herself—and she's determined to bring Teddy with her. John switches between Lillian's present day and the mid-century lives of Matilda and Iris, who are warm, vibrant characters and a welcome contrast to Lillian's gloom-and-doom. Aloof from the outset, it's never clear why, after 20 years without contact, Lillian wants to investigate her past, and her calculated manipulation of Teddy makes her hard to feel for. However, strong writing and interesting supporting characters should keep readers occupied through the end. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

This compelling first novel traces the fortunes of three generations of women from the small Caribbean Island of Dominica. Matilda, descended from African slaves, was a famous healer and possible murderer. The story of her hanging was handed down in songs. Her daughter, Iris, was famous as the jilted lover of a rich man and the victim of a horrific rape. Her subsequent insanity and death also became legendary. Iris' daughter, Lillian, was raised by her devoutly Catholic stepmother. Until the age of 15 she remains unaware that the infamous women of song are her legacy. Now living in Washington, D.C., the fragile, adult Lillian returns to Dominica to try to unravel the history of her family. The richly told narrative alternates between time periods, building suspense and compassion for all of the characters. The possibly insane Lillian is the least well rounded of the women, which makes the final chapters a little disappointing. The diversity of the African diaspora is often overlooked in modern African American literature, and this page-turner fills in some gaps. Marta Segal
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
If you buy a new print edition of this book (or purchased one in the past), you can buy the Kindle edition for only $2.99 (Save 57%). Print edition purchase must be sold by Amazon. Learn more.
For thousands of qualifying books, your past, present, and future print-edition purchases now lets you buy the Kindle edition for $2.99 or less. (Textbooks available for $9.99 or less.)
  • Thousands of books are eligible, including current and former best sellers.
  • Look for the Kindle MatchBook icon on print and Kindle book detail pages of qualifying books. You can also see more Kindle MatchBook titles here or look up all of your Kindle MatchBook titles here.
  • Read the Kindle edition on any Kindle device or with a free Kindle Reading App.
  • Print edition must be purchased new and sold by Amazon.com.
  • Gifting of the Kindle edition at the Kindle MatchBook price is not available.
Learn more about Kindle MatchBook.

New York Times best sellers
Browse the New York Times best sellers in popular categories like Fiction, Nonfiction, Picture Books and more. See more

Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Amistad; Reprint edition (April 24, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060837586
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060837587
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #676,215 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Mocha Girl VINE VOICE on April 10, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Wow! I can hardly believe Unburnable is Marie-Elena John's debut because she wrote such a deep, suspenseful novel that had me guessing until the last page. I found it to be perfectly paced, very well written with colorful, smart characters that jumped off the page. I was both entertained and educated by this offering - a rare feat in today's literature.

The story centers on three generations of Dominican women, two of which are infamously captured in local folklore, legend, and indigenous songs. Matilda, a proud, majestic African woman rumored to dabble in Obeah was publicly tried and hanged for murder after she confessed in police custody. Iris, Matilda's daughter, was a beautiful prostitute known for her voracious sexual appetite, disreputable past and questionable mental health. Lillian, Iris's daughter, was raised by her stepmother after Iris's untimely death. Lillian eventually moves to the United States to live with an aunt in order to shield her from her foremother's legacy. We learn quickly that the proverbial fruit does not fall far from the tree. After years of self-suppression, Lillian's mental instability manifests to the point where she now has difficulty blocking the painful memories. Fueled by inner voices and haunting flashbacks, she decides to return back to Dominica to learn the truth surrounding her family. She engages Teddy, a renowned attorney, collegiate confidante (and soon to be lover), who is basking in the afterglow of a sensationalized legal case where he successfully disproves a self-confession against tumultuous odds. Lillian sensing her grandmother's innocence, asks Teddy to join her in Dominica to re-investigate Matilda's 1940's era confession to mass murder.
Read more ›
Comment 17 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Format: Hardcover
For a long time, I've been consistently disappointed with the stuff that's being put out there by Black writers. With only a few exceptions, the publishing houses seem to be pushing little apart from Street Lit and Baby Mama Drama kinds of books. So when I heard the buzz in the publishing world about Unburnable, I made a point of buying it. The best way I can think of describing this book is a Caribbean version of Alex Haley's Roots, except that it also has elements of a mystery, a love story (actually, three love stories), a detective whodunit, a historical novel, an exploration of religion, a cliff-hanger, and straight up smart, strong writing. The author doesn't shy away from sexuality (you only have to read the first page to realize that this book deals head-on with sexuality); however, the sex in the book is not gratuitous, it serves to elaborate the author's many themes - rigid class and color distinctions, for example, and how women's sexuality and child-bearing capacity is controlled to maintain class structure.

There are also a few scenes of surprising violence, too, written in such a way as to stun the reader, especially the female-on-female violence. That particular scene, which is referred to in reviews as the Coke-bottle rape, is just amazing in its ability to encompass the nature of the class structure of the day; and it also set off a chain of reactions that symbolized the beginning of the end for the light-skinned dominant class of that time in the Caribbean.
Read more ›
Comment 15 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Format: Hardcover
This novel is destined for "Caribbean Classic" status.

While I am mindful that many writers hate being "compared" and although I concede that the literary styles, politics and and subject matters of the two novels are vastly different in many respects, there is a compelling case for comparing "Unburnable" with Jean Rhys' "Wide Sargasso Sea".

One obvious similarity is that both novels are set in Dominica (there must really be something magical about about that little rock); another is that both novels were authored by Caribbean women. The most important similarity, however, is that both authors insist that the Caribbean woman's (and by extension the Caribbean peoples') right to dignity must be acknowledged. Both authors are bellicose in their refusal to accept the self hatred which is part and parcel of the legacy of colonialism.

Alienation is an important theme in both novels. Antoinette in Wide Sargasso Sea and Lillian in Unburnable are women ill at ease in their environments, uncomfortable in her own skins, who nevertheless, fight tooth and nail to assert their right "to be".

Both novelists challenge the still prevailing view of polite Caribbean society that "obeah is wicked and its practitioners are charlatans; praise Jesus that our colonial masters liberated us with christianity". Christophine in Wide Sargasso Sea and Matilda in Unburnable are both healers and protectors; superheroines a la Wonder Woman, Mighty Isis and Xena Warrior Princess. They right wrongs, punish evil and defend the downtrodden. They are the christian god in earthly female form, with the appealing bonus of being strikingly beautiful. (An interesting aside: obeah is still illegal in most independent Caribbean states.
Read more ›
Comment 13 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse

Most Recent Customer Reviews

Set up an Amazon Giveaway

Amazon Giveaway allows you to run promotional giveaways in order to create buzz, reward your audience, and attract new followers and customers. Learn more about Amazon Giveaway
This item: Unburnable