Land of Love and Drowning by Tiphanie Yanique

Land of Love and DrowningLand of Love and Drowning by Tiphanie Yanique
Publisher: Riverhead
Release Date: July 10, 2014
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Publisher’s Description:

In the early 1900s, the Virgin Islands are transferred from Danish to American rule, and an important ship sinks into the Caribbean Sea. Orphaned by the shipwreck are two sisters and their half brother, now faced with an uncertain identity and future. Each of them is unusually beautiful, and each is in possession of a particular magic that will either sink or save them.

Chronicling three generations of an island family from 1916 to the 1970s, Land of Love and Drowning is a novel of love and magic, set against the emergence of Saint Thomas into the modern world. Uniquely imagined, with echoes of Toni Morrison, Gabriel García Márquez, and the author’s own Caribbean family history, the story is told in a language and rhythm that evoke an entire world and way of life and love. Following the Bradshaw family through sixty years of fathers and daughters, mothers and sons, love affairs, curses, magical gifts, loyalties, births, deaths, and triumphs, Land of Love and Drowning is a gorgeous, vibrant debut by an exciting, prizewinning young writer.

Land of Love and Drowning isn’t a plot driven novel. It’s a character study and a chronicle of the lives of two sisters. Eeona, the older sister, is prim and proper and very concerned with class and her place in society. Anette, the younger sister, is the complete opposite. This book also offers a history of the Virgin Islands from the time it was transferred from Danish to United States possession in the early 20th century up until the 1970s. It was interesting and troubling to read about how the Americans brought racism with them to the Virgin Islands where none had existed before. They also started putting up hotels and resorts and tried to make all the beaches private. The islanders were actually worse off as Americans even though we’re supposedly the greatest country in the world.

There is magical realism present in this novel. Several characters have magical physical attributes or capabilities. While it did require some suspension of disbelief, I thought it all made perfect sense in the context of the story. The islanders seemed like very superstitious people on the whole and a little bit of voodoo here and there seemed natural.

The only criticism I have of this book is that the pacing was slow. I wasn’t riveted when I was reading and therefore, it took me a long time to finish. However, the writing is beautiful and I liked how the narration alternated between several characters. Anette’s way of speaking was a little hard to understand but also charming.

I enjoyed this book and the fact that the setting was a place that I hadn’t read a book set in before. I feel liked a learned a lot. The author’s note at the end explains what is fact and what is fiction as far as the history of the Virgin Islands goes. I’ve heard a lot of buzz about this book and have a feeling it will win awards this year. Better read it so you can be in the know!

(I received this book courtesy of the publisher.)