Title: Island on the Edge of the World
Author: Deborah Rodriguez
Published: November 5th 2019
Publisher: Penguin Books Australia
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary
Rating: 4 stars
From the author of the international bestseller The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul, comes a captivating story set in the colourful but chaotic land of Haiti, as four very different women work together to find a lost child.
Haiti. A poor country rich in courage, strength and love. As these four women are about to discover.
Charlie, the rootless daughter of American missionaries, now working as a hairdresser in Northern California. But the repercussions of a traumatic childhood far from home have left her struggling for her way in life.
Bea, Charlie’s eccentric grandmother, who is convinced a reunion with her estranged mother will help Charlie heal.
Lizbeth, a Texas widow who has never strayed too far from home. She is on a daunting journey into the unknown, searching for the grandchild she never knew existed.
And Senzey, a young Haitian mother dealing with a lifetime of love and loss, who shows them the true meaning of bravery.
Together they venture through the teeming, colorful streets of Port-au-Prince, into the worlds of do-gooders doing more harm than good, Vodou practitioners, artists, activists, and everyday Haitian men and women determined to survive against all odds.
For Charlie, Bea, Lizbeth and Senzey, life will never be the same again . . .
‘I am thrilled to share Island on the Edge of the World with you, my readers. This is my sixth book, and I have loved the process of writing and researching every one of them because each time I learned something more about cultures and people.’
Acknowledgements, Deborah Rodriguez, Island on the Edge of the World
My heartfelt thanks go out to Deborah Rodriguez, author of Island on the Edge of the World. Without this book I would never have known about the plight of Haiti, the people, the land and the strong culture. This vibrant destination springs to life, thanks to the craftsmanship of Deborah Rodriguez. A motley crew of sorts, comprising of four very different women, discover the strength of the human spirit to endure in trying times in Island on the Edge of the World.
Island on the Edge of the World introduces readers to Haiti and four women who discover plenty about love and life. The story begins with Charlie, a hairdresser with a past marred by emotional pain and trauma. Charlie is on a personal journey to reconnect with her mother. Bea, Charlie’s strange but loveable grandmother, desperately wants her granddaughter to connect with her estranged mother, in the hope that this reunion will bring some clarity to Charlie’s life. Meanwhile, Lisabeth from Texas is a widow who takes the bold step and travels to an unknown land, in a desperate bid to find a grandchild – which may be the last link to her family. Finally, this is also the story of Senzey, a Haitian local who plays a pivotal role in showing this group of women the true meaning of resilience, strength and love. Island on the Edge of the World is a vibrant but contemplative novel, reminding us of the fragility of life.
What an eye-catching, bold and incredibly lively cover for Deborah Rodriguez’s sixth novel. Island on the Edge of the World is a ticket to Haiti, minus the flight and travel arrangements! I really enjoyed my armchair travel experience with Charlie, Bea, Lizbeth and Senzey. What a fabulous quartet this group makes! Deborah Rodriguez presents us with a brand new tale, filled with plenty of trials and tribulations, that will keep readers engaged from the open to the close of this novel.
Haiti is a corner of the world that I possess very little knowledge of, apart from the tragic earthquake that rocked this nation to its core. I also connect the practice of Voodoo to this locale, but I am ashamed to say this is as far as my understanding about this country extends to. Learning more about the country, people and culture via a well written book such as Island on the Edge of the World, is the perfect way to immerse yourself in an unknown destination. I am grateful to Deborah Rodriguez for her engaging and colourful insight into Haiti.
‘And the colours! It was as though someone has emptied a giant bucket of ice-cream sprinkles from the sky. Everything was screaming with colour, from the walls of the shops to the merchants’ umbrellas lining the curbs, the bananas and the melons spilling from their baskets, the uniforms of the children on their way home from school, the T-shirts and the dresses of the grown-ups out tending to their business under the blazing afternoon sun.’
I also loved this astute observation about the Haitian women.
‘And the way the Haitians walked. Especially the women. Even the youngest girls exuded a surety and pride in their straight-backed posture and long, even strides, as if sending a message to the world, loud and clear, that they were a force you couldn’t mess with.’
Rodriguez carefully divides her time with each of the four protagonists of this tale. As a result we are taken on a different pathway with each key character. We learn of each woman’s past, her present situation, and what the future may hold. Rodriguez also reveals each key character’s flaws, fears and assets. By the close of the book I felt like a knew each woman very well and I came to see them as a friend. There is a sense of familiarity to this cast that I enjoyed very much.
Underneath this story of connection, discovery, friendship, acceptance, forgiveness and support is a rich examination into the state of affairs in Haiti. Rodriguez opens our eyes to the welfare of the Haitian population, following the earthquake, the rebuilding process and enduring spirit of the people of Haiti. Rodriguez exposes us to a sad but realistic side to present day Haiti. Corruption and exploitation is rife in all areas of Haitian society. The focus on the underhanded work of orphanages is also pulled apart by Rodriguez, through one of her strong narrative strands. For those who are moved by the plight of the Haitian people and want to do more by the way of support, Deborah Rodriguez has included a list of organisations to contact. These support systems range from healthcare to agricultural assistance. Rounding off Island on the Edge of the World are a set of accompanying Reading Group Questions, which would assist book clubs in generating discussion about the book. I have used Deborah’s books in the past for book club and they always spurn fantastic channels of discussion. Finally, be inspired to cook up a traditional Haitian dish or two, thanks to the mouthwatering recipes included at the back of the book.
Island on the Edge of the World represents a vibrant sojourn through the magical streets of Haiti, with an eclectic but loveable cast of characters, that you cannot help but embrace. I recommend this book to all readers, but those with a passion for travel will be sure to fall for the charms of Island on the Edge of the World.
Island on the Edge of the World by Deborah Rodriguez was published on 5th November 2019 by Penguin Books Australia. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of Island on the Edge of the World, Deborah Rodriguez, visit here.
*I wish to thank Penguin Books Australia for providing me with a free copy of this book for review purposes.
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