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Independence Blues
W. B. Garvey, author

Independence Blues is the story of two journeys.  The novel follows the hopeful striving of Emerson and Madeline Gardner who travel from Jamaica to the United States in 1946, landing first in New Orleans, where Emerson attends university after giving up his successful pharmacy business in Kingston, then on to New York, Canada and eventually to Los Angeles where they settle after color prejudice forces Emerson to give up their dream of his becoming a doctor.

Interwoven with their story is the family’s 1963 drive through the southern United States, from Los Angeles to Miami, after Emerson abruptly decides they should  return home now that Jamaica has become independent.  The drive is seen through the eyes of their 9-year-old American-born son who becomes aware of both the dangerous conflicts arising from the civil rights movement and the expanding fault lines between his parents as their once happy marriage dissolves in bitterness over the course of the three day trip.

To be published November 2020

Semi Finalist

Plot/Idea: 10 out of 10
Originality: 10 out of 10
Prose: 10 out of 10
Character/Execution: 10 out of 10
Overall: 10.00 out of 10

Assessment:

Plot: Garvey’s vivid family chronicle centers on the circumstances of a Jamaican family from the 1930s until the 1960s. Told through beautifully interwoven narrative perspectives and the families’ experiences in Jamaica and the United States, Independence Blues provides an intimate, perceptive story of American life, relationships, and race relations.

Prose: Garvey’s prose is buoyant, lyrical, and layered. Moments of humor are laced throughout the narrative, along with keen observations about human behavior and the injustices of the Jim Crow era.

Originality: The novel is unique in its approach to storytelling, far more focused on character development and the work’s own internal cadences, than on chronological plot. This  is a story of generational struggles; of seeking and hoping for change that does not come. Garvey does a masterful job of creating a fully engaging narrative through pitch-perfect prose and nuanced characterizations.

Character/Execution: The voices of Garvey’s protagonists are seamlessly intertwined, while remaining distinct and and never muddied.

Date Submitted: August 31, 2020

Reviews
Garvey (White Gold) explores in this vibrant tale a Jamaican family’s experiences in the U.S. during the final decades of the Jim Crow era. In Jamaica, Madeline Jans overcomes severe illness and emotional abuse as a child to become a feisty young woman and marries Emerson Gardner, an aspiring doctor, while still a teen in the mid-1930s. As Madeline pursues nursing, singing, and sewing to help pay the bills, Emerson’s academic and professional endeavors take them to the U.S., and they settle in Los Angeles in 1952. In 1963 they leave California with their nine-year-old son and start a cross-country road trip, filled with bickering, to Miami, where they plan to catch a ship back to Jamaica. Throughout, the story transitions between the perspectives of Madeline and Emerson at different stages in their lives, and the internal monologue of their son is endearingly narrated during the three-day road trip: “I thought about walls and why it was that grown-ups... kept on building them.” Garvey mixes thoughtful insights about relationships and the changing world with the couple’s resistance to racial injustice (at a whites-only restaurant, they manage to get service after Madeline tells the manager her husband is with the Department of Health). Rather than sculpt a plot, Garvey offers a rich sense of the family’s experience. This character-driven outing is a trip worth taking. (Self-published)

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