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Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Intriguing Setting/Premise Just Not Enough in Caribbean Tale

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Tourists flock to Furnace Island, a small slice of Caribbean paradise, to soak in the sun and surf.  While they appreciate a little local color on their beach vacations, visitors prefer the dark faces of those waiting on them to be rarely seen, their voices never heard.  As a maid at the island's sparkling resort, Myrna Burre depends on the foreigners for her livelihood but resents them all the same.  They have no clue that her home's real name is Cruffey Island and that it was named for a plantation owner who used slave labor to work his land.  Not only are all the island's current residents descendants of those slaves, but the fancy resort where many of them now work is built atop the remains of the plantation that broke their ancestors' backs.  

Obsessed with the island's haunted past, Myrna spends her spare time secretly excavating the plantation ruins.  If she's found trespassing on private resort property, she could lose her much needed job.  She persists nevertheless.  When a wealthy African-American guest offers new information about Cruffey Island's past, Myrna becomes even more fixated on the plantation.  Fueled by mounting tensions between the resort's management and its local workers, she finds herself at the center of a conflict which will boil over with surprising consequences.
Fingerprints of Previous Owners, a debut novel by Rebecca Entel, offers a story about duality, racism, worth, and identity, enhanced by strong imagery.  While I appreciate the author's careful exploration of her themes, I had a difficult time engaging with the tale itself.  The characters are bland, the prose is uneven (choppy, fragmented sentences but long, dense paragraphs/chapters), and the plot meanders here, there, and everywhere.  In short, the book's boring.  Although the action picks up toward the end, not much happens throughout the rest of the story.  The only reason I ventured beyond the first couple pages of Fingerprints of Previous Owners is because I had promised to review it.  Otherwise, I wouldn't have bothered.  I still find the idea/symbolism of a hoity toity American resort built on top of a ruined slave plantation intriguing; I just wish this novel's execution had been better handled.  Oh well.

(Readalikes:  Hm, I can't think of anything.  Can you?)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language (a couple F-bombs, plus milder expletives), violence, sexual innuendo, and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of Fingerprints of Previous Owners from the generous folks at Unnamed Press via those at TLC Book Tours.  Thank you!
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