Thursday, September 23, 2010

Redemption in Indigo by Karen Lord

The cover of Redemption in Indigo is absolutely beautiful, and I love the title. While I was reading it, I felt terribly intelligent--it's the sort of cover and title that tell everyone, "I am reading a weighty work of literature." But the joke was on all those hypothetical people, because while Redemption in Indigo is a work of literature, it's not weighty at all. It's a charming, deceptively simple, fun work of literature.

It's based on a Senegalese folk tale, and it's meant to imitate the spoken word--which works so well that even the author asides became part of the full story. The writing is beautifully clear, the characters fully realized and sympathetic.

The story revolves around Paama, who leaves her buffoonish glutton of a husband to return to her family in the village where she grew up. Her husband follows her and she wearily extricates him from several fixes his greed gets him into. At the same time, the djombi--immortal spirits who interact with humans in different ways--have taken notice of Paama. They decide she's the right person to wield the Chaos Stick, which they've taken away from a djombi who had neglected and abused his power. But the Chaos Stick's former owner is determined to get the stick back.

There is no way to do justice to the story with a simple plot summary. The book's strength is its warmth. Even the bad guys have understandable motivations--and in the end, no one's really bad. Paama learns some bitter lessons during her adventures, but throughout everything she remains a strong, kind, dutiful woman.

When I finished the book, I set it down smiling. Then I burst into tears. I don't think I've ever reacted to a book quite like that before. I'm now passing my copy around to everyone I know, saying, "Read this. You'll be a better person afterwards."

B&N link

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