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Independence Blues
W. B. Garvey, author

Independence Blues consists of two interwoven stories: The journey of Emerson and Madeline Gardner from their youth and marriage in Kingston, Jamaica, through their 1946 arrival in the U.S. and the travels that lead them from New Orleans, to New York, and finally to Los Angeles where they settle after Emerson gives up on their dream of his becoming a doctor, and the Gardner family’s drive from Los Angeles to Miami in the summer of 1963, told by their nine-year-old son as he leaves everything he has known when Emerson insists they return to live in Jamaica. During their three day trip across the southern tier of the U.S., their son gradually becomes aware of both the rising tensions of the civil rights movement and the tensions between his parents as their once happy marriage dissolves in bitterness.

To be published in 2019

Plot/Idea: 8 out of 10
Originality: 8 out of 10
Prose: 9 out of 10
Character/Execution: 9 out of 10
Overall: 8.50 out of 10


Plot: The novel is meticulously plotted and intricately woven. Though the transitions between the narrative strands can at times be confusing, it is ultimately a compelling and propulsive read.

Prose: The prose is well crafted and often quite beautiful. The narrator has a distinct tone and the author competently employs regional dialects to bring the characters to life.

Originality: Though there are many comparable texts, the beauty of the prose and specificity of the characters distinguish this novel within its genre.

Character Development: The cast of characters is vast without being overwhelming and each is a well-drawn, fully realized individual. The author paints an intimate portrait of family ties and tensions.

Blurb: An intricately crafted, multi-generational family story about race, inequality, and the ties that bind.

Date Submitted: August 30, 2018

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)