Suspense is my favorite form of writing. It resembles a puzzle. It's best to have a notebook and take notes as you read the book (for any suspenseful novel), along with a note-taking strategy, such as a word web that answers who, what, when, where, how, and why events unfold throughout the story. This book is also entertaining. A few folks shared with me they missed their bus stop because of all of the story's shocking twists and turns. LOL!
GENRE AND THEME
The genre: fictional novel, suspense. The major theme: family, minor themes, self-love, trust, and forgiveness.
The two major settings are the fictional Gullah/Geechee island created from my imagination, off the coast of Savannah, Georgia, named Eva Creek Island. It is a Gullah/Geechee island. The sister town of that island, located in upstate New York, is named Jewel Park, New York.
The town was founded around the late 1800s by the narrator's ancestors, an African American woman and a Native American man.
Imani Jewel Henderson is the narrator of the story.
Ruby Jewel Weaver is Imani's mother. She was once the wife of Matthew Henderson. He divorced her when he discovered troubling information about her family.
Matthew Henderson is Imani's father.
Autumn is the daughter of Nana Zola.
Valerie and Redd are Imani's foster parents.
Bless Brown is Imani's best friend.
Blue Greene is a love interest of Imani's, although he is common-law-husband to a woman named Cree.
Mark Brown is Bless Brown's husband.
Carmel and Cayenne become great friends to Imani.
Leroy Taylor is the husband to Autumn.
Jurnee Miller is an Orphan Train survivor who marries Saul Jewel Weaver, the son of Nana Zola.
James Stalworth is a wealthhy Farmer and member of the Ku Klux Klan.
IMAGERY AND LITERARY DEVICES
The novel is filled with words that create strong images, such as the opening chapter where the author uses the literary device, flashback, as the narrator, Imani, remembers a horrific night during a Christmas holiday, when she learns that Nana Zola and Ruby have died.
Imani struggles to find her biological family. Her father, Matthew, wrote a book about her mother's family, but Imani never got a chance to read it or meet them because no family members would take her in, which is one reason she ended up in foster care. Her parents were traumatized by members of the Ku Klux Klan, but kept that secret from her.
Imani's purpose is to determine the full story of how the events that caused the trauma unfolded. Understanding her past is a gateway to her own healing.
FOLKLORE, MYTHOLOGY, AND HISTORY
Gullah/Geechee refers to the language and descendants of African Americans from 17 different African countries and ethnic groups who were kidnapped and enslaved from there to work the rice, cane, and cotton fields on American southern plantations in Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Florida. For more information, you can view and google the following:
The Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor
The film, "The Will to Survive," which is free on Youtube.com
The novel and Oprah Winfrey-inspired film, Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston
The Netflix film, "High on the Hog: Episode 2"
The title of the book was chosen because it refers to the historical tragedy of the African American Slave Trade and The Middle Passage, as indicated in the movie, "Amistad." The movie shows how enslaved Africans were considered cargo on the ships that carried them to global ports.
If "cargo" was miscalculated as too heavy a burden for the ship's journey, enslaved Africans were murdered and thrown overboard into the ocean by their captors. Enslaved Africans who survived The Middle Passage were traumatized even further when they reached the shore. Any family members that remained were separated by being sold to different slaveowners.
In the novel, to disrupt some of the trauma, one of the narrator's relatives developed a way for family members to reconnect and recognize each other if they knew their middle name, which was Jewel.
In the novel, the narrator's father was a journalist and researcher. He knew there was an "ocean of jewels" for his daughter, and he left her a guided legacy to find them. His trauma would not let him build a close bond with Imani to tell her about her own family. Before he died, he left her mysterious guides.
I loved mythology as a child and enjoyed teaching it in my career. I found it fascinating. The Greek mythological story of Eridanus (pronounced A-rid-dennis) connects to the novel's story in many ways. There are many versions concerning the myth of Eridanus that you can google.
One of the ways the myth can be connected to the book is through the message regarding how important it is to listen to the advice of your elders, God, or even your own intuition, and even then, you can still get hurt or even punished.
Eridanus disobeyed his father and was punished for eternity for being disobedient. He didn't deserve the harsh punishment he was given because what he encountered became the result of a horrible accident. He destroyed the Earth, but he didn't mean to, and was sentenced to life in a polluted river that did eventually become holy, by divine intervention, for the rest of his life.
In the novel, Imani is punished throughout her childhood for the sins of others, the choices she makes, and events in her family that were beyond her control. Her parents were punished the same way.
Sometimes, just living can be a punishment! For example, during tragic circumstances, some people may ask, "Why did this happen to me? Why am I in this situation? I did nothing to deserve this! I'm a good person. Why me, God?"
God gives us an assignment called, Life (says spiritual advisor, Iyanla Vanzant). What we do with this assignment is up to us!
Between 1850 and 1935, impoverished children who lived in America and/or children who emigrated from Europe, were sent to American southern towns to work as sharecroppers and farm laborers to provide for themselves and their families, via railroad trains.
When they arrived in the South, Farm owners would line them up like cattle, similar to the way enslaved Africans were treated on the auction block, and bought to work on their family farms.
The children were given food, shelter, and protection, but not all children were treated so well. Many children were abused. Google, Orphan Trains, to read some of the stories and history.
As a result of the mistreatment of children, by the 1930s, the Children's Aid Society was formed and laws were created to prevent children from being abused and exploited in the American industrial workforce.
The character in the novel, Jurnee Miller, was an Orphan Train survivor. Her parents were Jewish. When they arrived in America from Europe before World War 1, they had a difficult time finding work. They left Jurnee with a relative and returned to their home, which was a tragic mistake.
The relatives who were left to care for Jurnee, realized they could barely care for themselves. They sent Jurnee on an Orphan Train to Savannah, Georgia. Jurnee then lived with the Stalworth family and worked as a sharecropper. The family lived on Eva Creek Island. This is where she met and married Saul Jewel Weaver, the son of Nana Zola. He was a doctor. This marriage was not welcomed by either family, especially Mr. Stalworth.
This is a predominantly African American community in Brooklyn, New York, which has heavily been gentrified within the past ten years. Some of the most amazing, historic brownstone homes are found here, along with one of the first African American free communities in New York City, known as Weeksville. The community dates back to the late 1800s. The Hunterfly Houses are still here, and tours are given to view them through the Weeksville Center. In the novel, Imani discovers she has relatives living in Bedford-Stuyvesant.
This is a term used to describe racist attitudes that are prevalent in the same ethnic community. Due to the divisiness among global slave-traders during the African Slave Trade, unspoken rules regarding skin-tone, hair texture, and class were created and used to keep people in the same ethnic group, and even family, apart
For example, some people lighter in complexion in the African American community in the 1950s, used a "brown paper bag test" to allow entry into popular venues and clubs. If your complexion was lighter than a brown paper bag, you were admitted into the event.
Some people have even pretended to be of another ethnic group, rather than admit to being African American. This type of Colorism is called, Passing.
In the novel, Nana Zola favors her granddaughter over her own daughter, due to her light complextion. This cruel act of favoritism leads to heartbreak and tragedy for both children when they become old enough to understand racism.
This novel covers many topics and is great for discussions pertaining to the subjects of domestic violence, education, foster care, Gullah culture, social justice, and racism.