No Telephone to Heaven

Overview

A brilliant Jamaican-American writer takes on the themes of colonialism, race, myth, and political awakening through the experiences of a light-skinned woman named Clare Savage. The story is one of discovery as Clare moves through a variety of settings – Jamaica, England, America – and encounters people who affect her search for place and self.

The structure of No Telephone to Heaven combines naturalism and lyricism, and traverses space and time, dream and reality, myth and ...

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Overview

A brilliant Jamaican-American writer takes on the themes of colonialism, race, myth, and political awakening through the experiences of a light-skinned woman named Clare Savage. The story is one of discovery as Clare moves through a variety of settings – Jamaica, England, America – and encounters people who affect her search for place and self.

The structure of No Telephone to Heaven combines naturalism and lyricism, and traverses space and time, dream and reality, myth and history, reflecting the fragmentation of the protagonist, who nonetheless seeks wholeness and connection. In this deply poetic novel there exist several levels: the world Clare encounters, and a world of which she only gradually becomes aware – a world of extreme poverty, the real Jamaica, not the Jamaica of the middle class, not the Jamaica of the tourist. And Jamaica – almost a character in the book – is described in terms of extraordinary beauty, coexisting with deep human tragedy.

The violence that rises out of extreme oppression, the divided loyalties of a colonized person, sexual dividedness, and the dividedness of a person neither white nor black – all of these are truths that Clare must face. Overarching all the themes in this exceptionally fine novel is the need to become whole, and the decisions and the courage demanded to achieve that wholeness.

The story of a woman's quest for her identity amid the colonialism, politics, racial attitudes and myths of her Jamaican culture.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This book gives lyrical expression to some harsh truths, using a series of vivid flashbacks to highlight key moments in a young woman's lifelong quest for moral absolutes. Born into a light-skinned, landed family on the island of Jamaica, Clare Savage is compelled to inhabit a world that shifts between the demands of the black and white communities. Her adolescent years are spent in America, where her ambitious father encourages her to seize the opportunity to pass for white. Later studies at an English university further her feelings of alienation and she determines to return to Jamaica to seek her identity and her island heritage, a move which leads her to political activism and eventual tragedy. Though well-written and thoughtful, the novel focuses exclusively on Clare's difficulties, making no attempt to recall the small moments of triumph or joy that occur in even the most dismal lives. Without these, the protagonist seems a symbolic icon rather than a creature of flesh and spirit. Her journey toward selfhood seems more significant than the character herself. (July 14)
Library Journal
One might expect a novel about Jamaica to be typical beach fare (``Come to Jamaica''), but Cliff depicts the island paradise as a powder keg. Clare, a light-skinned native, moves to New York City as a child, but her mother soon goes back home and dies shortly thereafter. Rebelling against her father's urgings to ``pass'' for her own good, Clare spends several rootless years in the States and studies Renaissance literature in England. Fascinated by her mother's and grandmother's culture and their reluctance to leave Jamaica despite bleak prospects, Clare returns as a young woman to a Jamaica she barely remembers. Not a romantic homecoming, Clare's experience is as unsettling as the Jamaica of the travelogues is lyrical. A glossary of Jamaican terms helps clarify the rich text. For wide-ranging fiction collections. Mary K. Prokop, CEL Regional Lib., Savannah, Ga.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780452275690
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 3/28/1996
  • Series: International Series
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 379,187
  • Product dimensions: 5.36 (w) x 7.98 (h) x 0.68 (d)

Meet the Author

Michelle Cliff was born in Jamaica and is the author of three acclaimed novels: Abeng, its sequel, No Telephone to Heaven, and Free Enterprise (Plume). She has also written a collection of short stories, Bodies of Water (Plume), and two poetry collections, The Land of Look Behind and Claiming an Identity They Tought Me to Despise. She is Allan K. Smith Professor of English Language and Literature at Trinity College in Connecticut and divides her time between Hartford, Connecticut, and Santa Cruz, California.

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