Received a copy of The Water Here Is Never Blue By Shelagh Plunkett through the First Reads Giveaway
This book is laced with description and poetic rhythm that is imperative when calling upon your memory to write about areas of the globe the majority of the public will never get a chance to experience. From the beginning of the book to the end the author at times grants the reader entrance into a conscious dream space. In this space you are living where foreign birds are heard, the sweet earth of the clove cigarettes is palatable, foaming waters are felt bubbling on your legs then dissipating into thick air, the hug of humidity and natives staring as if you had five heads. The author allows the audience to live the world through her sensory encounters all the while reading in the comfort of your own home.
While reading the summary I had high expectations, the introduction justified it, after finishing I feel it failed to live up to them. Well, it's a memoir how can you make non-fiction more enticing then the life you had lived, fact is fact, reality is reality. The subject matter lead me to believe that I was about to read a literary travelogue, filled with familial discovery and political intrigue. I was expecting the coming of age aspects of physical and emotional maturation, adaptation to truly foreign land, and her search for life's meaning. It covered nearly all the elements I had expected and made me realize that a person's memoir is just that, there memoir you can't manipulate the facts in order to make for an unbelievable story for the audience.
The parallels between the main character and the countries she found herself in was also a nice complementary piece of the story. Shelagh was thirteen years old while Guyana was eight years old when she first got off the plane she was accompanied by the first reason for her culture shock and that was the steelpan trill of soca music. Both entities were on the cusp of their own independence, restless, yet hopeful and optimistic about the future. At the time of her entry to Indonesia Shelagh seemed angry and resentful. While showing a brave face she was seething with boredom and disappointment with her current situation. The hyperbole between the "Freedom Fighters" and the trouble they caused in East Timor was a great dichotomy in Indonesia and was disconcerting for Shelagh.
Reader's, especially myself are often times quite selfish. You read the premise of the novel and you expect the questions raised by the author to be answered. Much like her own personal mysteries, the reader is left in there own shroud. I had a good idea of the answers but wanted confirmation, I was upset, but was eventually accepting of the fact that she constructed a reflection of feelings between herself and the reader. My greed was parted in thanks to you, and a more accommodating reader was realized.
I truly loved Shelagh as a character. She seemed like a really mature, smart,at times mischievous, cool "chick" (I mean that in the most endearing fashion). I know their are worse struggles out there in the world, but to deal with the lack of "home" takes something special. The random Guyanese expressions were also enjoyable. Being from Canada one of the true cultural "melting pots" of the world many people will have come across some of them. For me I have an affinity for a ladies "whine" all though being a true and true "white boy" mine is more of whimper. Another reminder from the past I hope I am not implicating myself when saying this but in high school I smoked some marijuana with a guy who had immigrated from Guyana to Canada five years prior. After leaving my garage he took a scrap hubcap and wheeled it along the street with two sticks to guide it. It was quite the image for a suburban area, and I asked him "what he was doing?" and he told me it was something he did to pass the time in his homeland. I couldn't find the reference in the book but reading it at the time brought back this memory.