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by Karen Lord
Reviewed by Darryl Morris

Barbadian author Karen Lord's Redemption in Indigo is based on a Senegalese folk tale which opens in the village of Makendha. Paama, an ordinary and good hearted woman whose cooking skills are revered throughout the region, has moved back home two years previously to live with her parents after leaving her husband Ansige, a gluttonous and arrogant man-child whose incessant demands became too much for his wife to satisfy. Ansige embarks on a quest to reclaim her, primarily to satisfy his insatiable appetite. After an absurd and unnecessarily arduous journey he eventually reaches Makendha, and havoc ensues while Paama and her parents attempt to appease the ridiculous man, and rescue him from his numerous misadventures.

These events are observed by two djombi, spirit creatures who appear as insects that speak to Ansige during his tribulations. The two spirits also observe Paama, and decide that she would be the worthy owner of the power of chaos, which had been taken from another djombi after he became disdainful of the humans he was assigned to oversee and protect. A messenger, supposedly sent by Ansige, visits Paama and awards her with an embellished stick, presumably a present from Ansige for her many years of service to him.

The malevolent but still powerful djombi is infuriated that his power of chaos has been granted to a human, in the form of the Chaos Stick, and he seeks to reclaim it by any means necessary. Ultimately he engages against Paama, and later with her, and is chastened and transformed by their relationship as he teaches Paama about the nature of the world and of the shortcomings, frailties and strengths of human beings.

Redemption in Indigo is a unique and engaging novel that incorporates magical realism as its primary device to build upon an entertaining folk tale. I found the book difficult to put down. This debut novel, which won or was a finalist for several literary awards, is an excellent beginning for this talented author, and I look forward to her next effort.