Nunez, Elizabeth. Bruised Hibiscus. Seattle: Seal Press, 2000.
Reason read: There is a steel drum festival called the Pan Ramajay festival that sometimes takes place in May.
Lean into the narrative of Bruised Hibiscus lest you might miss something important or more likely, something sensuous. The lyrical language is like two songs being sung at the same time. Two love songs in different languages. First, there is the language of the Trinidad village of Otahiti, abuzz with the news of a mysterious white woman pulled from the sea, her eyes and lips eaten away by sea life. An evil has come into their community. Then there is the culture of sexuality, both good and bad, which circles two marriages. Two women share a dark secret from childhood; forever linked after witnessing the brutal violation of a young girl. Zuela is the mother of ten children and runs a grocery shop with her husband in Port-of-Spain. Rosa lives on the other side of town in a two-story house in Taccarigua. As adults Zuela and Rosa are mired in loveless and cruel marriages. When the body of the white woman was first discovered, each woman reacted differently but both shared the sensation of memories of the young girl’s violation flooding back.
Examples of the lyrical language, “She, too, had removed the boulder damming her memory” (p 43), and “Then the Chinaman insisted, and forced her lips to shape his words” (p 63).
As an aside, my mother used to play an album by a Calypso band called The Merrymen. They had a song about the Yankee dollar. This book reminded me of them.
Author fact: Nunez was born in Trinidad but lives in New York.
Book trivia: I found Bruised Hibiscus to be somewhat repetitive. Be prepared to feel like you are reading whole passages four or five times.
Nancy said: Nancy said she enjoyed the novels of Nunez (p 58).
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Cavorting Through the Caribbean: Trinidad and Tobago” (p 58).