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
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