Sweet Home, Jamaica : Jamaican Book Review

About the Book
MICHELLE FREEMAN: Strong-willed and opinionated; feisty; determined and independent. Takes lip from no one. Knows what she wants, and goes after it.

MAVIS: Michelle’s stepmother. Lacks formal education, but possesses a sharp intelligence and innate common sense.

JOY, YVONNE, STEPHANIE: Michelle’s three best friends.

GRANDMA MIRIAM: Matriarch of the Campbell Family.

CORNELL CAMPBELL: Michelle’s uncle; ganja smoking Rastafarian rebel and storyteller.

Michelle Freeman was born in Jamaica but grew up in England. After discovering that her father’s wife, Mavis, is not her biological mother, she tries to locate her biological mother, and in doing so discovers the island of her birth, and a large extended maternal family.

Set in Brixton in the 1970’s, it tells of Michelle’s life and ambitions. We learn of her friends, her background and birthright. Follow her through her teenage years as she progresses through school and life in South London and Jamaica. You will laugh and cry with her as you learn of her history and triumphs. This strong young woman copes with adversity and makes the most of her life with help from her family and friends. We travel to Jamaica to meet her extended family, and watch as she grows into a talented and popular young woman. A story to warm the heart and give hope to ambitions.

A virtually unknown Jamaican writer who lives in Old Harbour, Jamaica has penned a powerful novel that is quickly creating a buzz in book circles. The book, Sweet Home, Jamaica has already been picked up by Vanguard Press, Cambridge, UK, and it is being hailed as one of the most powerful and poignant first novels to have come from the Jamaican Diaspora in many years.

Claudette Beckford-Brady is the author of the epic, two-volume set. The story chronicles the trials and triumphs of Michelle Freeman, a Jamaican-born young woman growing up in London in the 1970’s who makes the shocking discovery at fourteen years old that the woman she has always assumed to be her mother, is in fact not. The chance revelation drives her to begin a search for her biological mother and this search eventually takes her to Jamaica where she finds a lot more than she was looking for.

Volume 1 covers the years 1974 to 1982 and follows Michelle’s transition from a teenager into young adulthood, while in Volume 2 the saga continues into the 1990’s, and finds her living on the island and running her own newspaper publishing business.

This astonishing debut novel showcases Beckford-Brady’s creative talent as a writer and her deep perception of Jamaican society at home and abroad. From the very first line she hijacks the reader’s attention and holds it throughout with her compelling storyline and her malleability with words. The plot is filled with drama – fun and laughter, tragedy and tears. The author captures the essence of the Jamaican psyche and she successfully weaves gripping scenarios as she delves into the convoluted lives and inner feelings of her true to life characters.

The book is written in the first person, and in Standard English but with much of the dialogue in Jamaican Creole; however it is written in such a way as to facilitate easy reading for those not familiar with the vernacular.

A sharp, telling pen can sometimes paint as pretty a picture as the artist’s brush, and Beckford-Brady dutifully executes this visualization with her lavish descriptions of the verdant Jamaican countryside and rural traditions. One can almost smell the pungent aroma of the pimento leaves on family land as Michelle explores the flora, and Beckford-Brady lovingly describes how a tree is planted with the navel string of each new family member that comes along, and how the trees are eternally revered for relatives living and departed. And yes, of course there is sex but the descriptions, though ravishing, bravely abstain from plunging to the realm of erotica.

Claudette Beckford-Brady was born in Old Harbour, Jamaica in 1956 and went to England in 1964, where she remained until 1990, when, due to health problems she returned home to Jamaica where she found the climate more conducive to her Sickle Cell condition.

Sweet Home, Jamaica has a universal appeal, but will be particularly attractive to Jamaicans who want to reminisce, remember their country traditions, and touch base with home. It is a bold first novel, and a compellingly delicious “must read”. The book is also a refreshing addition to contemporary Caribbean Literature. For more information, visit www.pegasuspublishers.com

About the Reviewer
Dave Rodney is a media marketing consultant based in New York and is the author of the recently released book, Contemporary Musicians & Their Music- Usher/ Rosen Publishing Group, New York

About the Author
CLAUDETTE BECKFORD-BRADY was born in Old Harbour, Jamaica, in the West Indies. In 1964, at the age of seven, she joined her parents in Gloucester, England, where she attended Junior and Secondary school. On leaving school in 1973 she worked as a Sales Ledger clerk and a telephonist/receptionist, before moving to London in 1976, where she joined the civil service. In 1981 she moved to Lambeth Borough Council where she progressed to the level of Personnel and Training Officer. She lived in Brixton from 1977 to 1990, when she left the UK to return to Jamaica where she now resides.

Claudette has won several awards for her short stories; SWEET HOME, JAMAICA is her first full length book and her first published work.

Where to Buy the Book
For more information, visit www.pegasuspublishers.com. The book is available at amazon.com and in Jamaica at  York Pharmacy & all branches of Kingston Bookshops.