Book Reviews

BY LOVE POSSESSED: STORIES

Book Author: Lorna Goodison
Review Writen By: Review by G. K. Abraham
December 17,2012

Jamaican poet, short-story writer, and illustrator Lorna Goodison has penned book of stories about love.  She is known primarily as a poet whose work often focuses on women. She writes about the different roles a woman can play: mother, daughter, lover, warrior, object of desire, object of abuse, and object of worship. An empathetic vein runs throughout all of Goodison's poems. When she writes of women, she writes with an understanding of their situation, whatever that situation might be.

 

She is praised for being able to write true feminist poetry without separating men from women. Although at times she exposes the injustices that women experience at the hands of men, Goodison also writes highly acclaimed love poems. Many of Goodison’s poems, too, are about the Jamaican experience. “Ocho Rios II,” in Tamarind Season, views life in Jamaica through the eyes of a Rasta man and his dealings with a tourist. Tamarind Season also includes “Bridge Views,” a poem about the violence and poverty with which Jamaicans are confronted.

In ‘By Love Possessed’, her focus is the price women often pay for a man’s sometimes fleeting attention. In the Pushcart Prize-winning title story within this collection, humble Dottie thinks her luck has turned when she meets Frenchie, the best-looking, if not most reliable, man in the whole of Jamaica.

 

It is a fascinating discourse on men, women, and love. In one story, the cause of discontent might be an ego-driven dominant male; in another, a woman – blinded by love – may be the source of her anguish. In "Henry," a young boy turned out of his house to make way for his mother's lover sells roses on the street to survive. On a whim, he bites off a bloom, which he can feel burning inside his mouth like a red pepper light, hoping it will take root and beautify his own life. In ‘The Helpweight,’ an accomplished woman must bear the burden of an old flame's renewed affections when he returns from a life abroad with his Irish bride in tow. These and over a dozen other evocative stories create a world in which pride can nourish a soul or be its ruin, and where people are in turn uplifted and undone by love. In Goodison’s world, a woman can be broken by love; meet guile with guile, successfully ‘catching’ her intended; or even find redemption through self-love.

 

At first reading, it might seem as though Goodison singularly points an accusatory finger at men’s foolishness and their sometimes abusive and irresponsible behaviors. A closer inspection reveals that Goodison equally scolds both for their abuse of such a sacred gift.

 

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