"Fruit of the Lemon" by Andrea Levy. Picador, 2007.
Because I enjoyed Levy's first book, Small Island, so much, I snapped this one up off the new books truck as soon as I saw it.
Although Faith and her older brother were both born in London, their parents had emigrated from Jamaica, and, now that their children are grown are thinking of returning "home." This is very upsetting to Faith, because for all those years, neither her mother nor father seemed willing to talk about their early lives and families. At the same time, her increasing awareness of racial prejudice and violence causes her to withdraw from work and her circle of friends. Concerned for her health, her parents decide she needs a vacation and send her to visit Aunt Coral in Jamaica for two weeks. There, by way of colorful stories and visits to the places where the families had lived, Aunt Coral paints in the lives of her parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents. Slowly, Faith realizes that Jamaica is in fact a place where she can "belong", and comes to appreciate her place in the family. An interesting visual effect is the filling-in of the family tree as the stories are told, and in the last chapter, it looks just like a lemon!
Levy's Jamaican voice is very well conveyed, and I can vividly hear my mother speaking in the turns of phrase and expressions: I ask you! And the stories mother told about some family members who were "light" and hated to acknowledge they were part black is reflected in the sentiments and life choices of the characters in this story.
I'm looking forward to her next book!