Nunez, Elizabeth. Anne In-Between. New York: Akashic Books, 2009.
Reason read: Anna In-Between reflects on childhood. Every time my birthday nears, so do I. Read for myself.
Thirty-nine year old Anna returns to her parents’ home in the Caribbean islands. Anna has been in New York City as an in-demand editor for almost eighteen years, returning to her Caribbean home periodically for short visits. She returns, not because of a longing for her country, but only to check in on her aging parents. They appreciate the visits but feel Anna has lost touch with her roots. It is as if Anna cannot wait to bolt from her childhood memories, the color of her mixed-race skin, and her emotional parents.
On this particular trip, Anna discovers her mother has advanced stage breast cancer and is appalled her parents have been aware of the growing tumors all along. It is inconceivable they chose not to do anything about the disease growing in Beatrice’s breast. With Anna’s insistence of medical care ever increasing, Anna’s parents finally visit a doctor to begin treating the disease with chemotherapy. Anna’s mother, however, draws the line at traveling to the United States for necessary-for-survival surgery, strongly believing her dark skin will warrant sub par treatment.
Mother and daughter are locked in a cultural battle; mother accusing daughter of becoming too Americanized as if it were akin to catching a different debilitating disease. [As an aside, their fight reminded me of my own battles. My mother is convinced I no longer have the capacity to take care of my childhood home; as if the ways of Monhegan are too foreign to me as now I live with running water, working lights, and an automatic thermostat.] Anna In-Between is the dance of expectation. Mothers want so much for their daughters that reality seems like a constant disappointment, an “you can never do anything right” attitude. Been there! Beatrice is not entirely to blame in all this. Anna has her assumptions, too. She has so much pent up resentment towards her mother she thinks Beatrice blames her for a failed marriage, is disappointed in Anna’s less than impressive career, and is embarrassed by Anna’s less than impeccable appearance. It is hard for Anna to empathize; to see Beatrice as human when she feels like such a failure herself. I won’t spoil the plot, but I can say Nunez’s gift is a satisfactory non-ending with a healthy dose of hope. For Anna and Beatrice.
Interestingly enough, Nunez refers to the locale of Anna In-Between as “the island” as if she doesn’t want to put a pin the map of where the story actually takes place.
Author fact: Nunez was born in Trinidad.
Book trivia: Anna In-Between was reviewed by Edwidge Danticat. I just finished reading The Farming of Bones by Danticat last month.
Nancy said: Pearl said she has enjoyed the novels of Nunez and made mention of Anna In-Between (Book Lust To Go p 58).
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Cavorting Through the Caribbean – Trinidad and Tobago” (p 58).
I am consistently running (yay). My head is finally screwed on straight – somewhat (yay). Things are not perfect but I can say February is mostly fixed.
- The Crimson Petal and the White by Michael Faber – in honor of Charles Dickens and his birthday being in February. Weird, I know.
- Anna In-Between by Elizabeth Nunez – in honor of my childhood.
- Little Havana Blues: A Cuban-American Literature Anthology edited by Virgil Suarez and Delia Poey – in honor of Cuba’s reformed constitution.
- The Last Good Kiss by James Crumley – in honor of February being friendship month.
- Rome and a Villa by Eleanor Clark – in honor of Clark’s birthday.
- All Deliberate Speed: Reflections on the First Half Century of Brown v. Board of Education by Charles J. Ogletree, Jr. – in honor of February being Civil Rights month.
- Barrow’s Boys: A stirring Story of Daring, Fortitude, and Outright Lunacy by Fergus Fleming – in honor of Exploration month.
- Making Tracks by Matt Weber – a Christmas gift from my sister.
What about May? May was a month of personal disappointments and private pain. I weathered all without much fanfare. Running was nonexistent but I can’t say the same for books:
- Landfall: a Channel Story by Nevil Shute (EB)
- Main Street by Sinclair Lewis (AB, EB & print)
- Martin Sloane by Michael Redhill (EB & print)
- Bruised Hibiscus by Elizabeth Nunez (EB & print)
- Adrian mole: the Cappuccino Years by Sue Townsend (EB & print)
- Into Thin Air: a Personal Account … by Jon Krakauer
- Jade Island by Elizabeth Lowell (EB & print)
- Last Seen in Massilia by Steven Saylor (EB & print)
- Angel at My Table by Janet Frame (EB & print)
Early Review from LibraryThing:
- 1968: — edited by — Aronson
Added – Plays:
- Medea by Euripides ~ in honor of the best time to go to Greece.
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).
This is the first month since September that I don’t have some kind of race looming. It feels weird to not worry about the run. I guess I can concentrate on the books:
- Landfall: a Channel Story by Nevil Shute – in honor of the month the movie was released.
- Main Street by Sinclair Lewis – in honor of Minnesota becoming a state in May (AB).
- Bruised Hibiscus by Elizabeth Nunez – on honor of the Pan Ramjay festival held in May.
- Adrian Mole: the Cappuccino Years by Sue Townsend – in honor of Mother’s Day.
- Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer – in honor of the failed Mount Everest climb in May 1994.
- Jade Island by Elizabeth Lowell – to continue the series started in April in honor of Lowell’s birth month.
- Warding of Witch World by Andre Norton – to continue the series started in March to honor the month of Norton’s passing.
Something new! I just discovered archive dot org! They are brilliant! I have been able to find a bunch of the books I have on my Challenge list, including two for this month. That means I will be able to leave the print at home and still read on my lunch break!