Book Review: By Love Possessed: Stories
Book Reviewed by Emanuel Carpenter
What’s it like to be in love on the island of Jamaica? Is it all about long walks on the beach, listening to Reggae music, and kissing under the hot Jamaican sun? Or is there more to it than what we imagine it to be? In the new book by Lorna Goodison, “By Love Possessed,” the author proves that love is more than a notion.
Lorna Goodison’s latest book, “By Love Possessed,” is a Jamaican-themed, short-story collection with an emphasis on love in its various stages. There’s new love, unrequited love, old love, and then some. The collection gets off to a strong start with a story called, “The Helpweight,” about a woman whose ex-husband returns to Jamaica. He wants more from her than to reminisce about the good ole days. Turns out, he wants her to show his new trophy wife how to dress properly for an event. If you think that's all he wants though, think again.
Next is one of my favorites of the collection, "Jamaica Hope." In this story, sparks fly when a hard-working carpenter named Alphonso meets Lilla, a woman with a memorable smile. We follow their story for many years. Lilla wants marriage but getting hitched is the furthest thing from Alphonso's mind. Nevermind that they have children together and have lived together for several years. Will an ultimatum finally make him come around? Or is there a secret reason Alphonso doesn’t want to tie the knot? You won't be disappointed when you find out.
In “Wedding in Roxbury,” two women and a young boy stumble upon a wedding while driving. Captivated, they decide to stay in the car and become outside spectators. They comment on the groom and the bride. But it’s the story within this story that makes it all worthwhile.
“Bella Makes a Life,” is equally entertaining. Bella returns to Jamaica to her husband Joseph after living in New York City in order to make a better life for them. She returns to her homeland with more than just loud clothes to show for her travels. Bella has ideas on making a better life for her family. Joseph, however, wants things to return back to normal, which means a simple life for them both. And if things do not return to the way they were, Joseph has a Plan-B that will change their relationship forever.
Of course, there are far more stories in this collection than these four standout pieces. Many of them tackle the issue of homelessness, domestic abuse, and even men who use women for money. “By Love Possessed,” is filled with tales of strong Jamaican women (sometimes at the expense of weaker men). Goodison, an award-winning poet and teacher at the University of Michigan, is a gifted writer who has a way of whisking readers away into the stories she tells. The dialogue is authentic; the stories unique. And the characters are simply unforgettable. In other words, “Mi tink” readers, especially women, will enjoy this short story collection.