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Tide Running


Cliff and Ossi have grown up in Plymouth on the island of Tobago, their lives turning on the axis of small-town life. One day they watch the arrival of a couple and their child at a luxurious house overlooking the ocean. The couple invites Cliff into their home and lives, and in that cool'flim-style' house, the harsh, brittle life of urban Plymouth is kept briefly at bay, desires obscuring differences in class and race. But then things begin to go wrong-money vanishes, the couple's car disappears-and those ...

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Tide Running: A Novel

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Cliff and Ossi have grown up in Plymouth on the island of Tobago, their lives turning on the axis of small-town life. One day they watch the arrival of a couple and their child at a luxurious house overlooking the ocean. The couple invites Cliff into their home and lives, and in that cool'flim-style' house, the harsh, brittle life of urban Plymouth is kept briefly at bay, desires obscuring differences in class and race. But then things begin to go wrong-money vanishes, the couple's car disappears-and those differences are brought suddenly to light, raising unsettling questions about relationships, wealth, and responsibility.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Oonya Kempadoo's Tide Running is effective, beautiful, and haunting . . . and pulses with a distinctive Caribbean rhythm.—Glenville Lovell, Washington Post

'With a finely tuned ear for the cadences of the Caribbean . . .. Kempadoo succeeds in turning an unsettling tale into an exploration of the global politics of desire.'—The New Yorker

'A vividly imagined [tale] by this poetically gifted, politically incisive young Caribbean writer.'—Elle magazine

The Washington Post
Kempadoo skillfully portrays a wide spectrum of island life, introducing several other lively characters along the way. In the treatment of these minor characters and the rendering of the landscape, her vision is richly preserved. As a microcosm of contemporary Caribbean life on a small island where expectations far outstrip reality, Tide Running is a reminder of the hopelessness that exists in the hearts of many. — Glenville Lovell
The New Yorker
The heaving power of the tides and the rhythmic "swellin'" of the sea around the island of Tobago are the erotic and spiritual center of Kempadoo's second novel, the story of a ménage à trois involving a beautiful Tobagan man and some recent arrivals -- a wealthy mixed-race couple, recklessly "flirting with newness" in a place that still bears the historical scars of the slave trade. With a finely tuned ear for the cadences of the Caribbean, Kempadoo, the British-born child of Guyanese parents, examines the strange symbiosis between the newcomers, seduced by local color, and the impoverished islanders, hungry for consumer goods. As the trio's relationship presses to its disastrous conclusion, she succeeds in turning an unsettling tale into an exploration of the global politics of desire.
The Los Angeles Times
"And then the sea go laugh. Shake-up 'eself and romp with the breeze. Show off to the beat-up hills, booming 'gainst the cliffs and blowing out the biggest waves 'e can push. Then the sea go turn up 'e colors, swallow down the green, lighten the light blue, and darken the deep. Liven up 'eself and laugh. Everything 'bout the sea big-up in them dry-season days the sea does talk more. Make me want it more."

As this short passage delightfully illustrates, there can be little point in talking about Oonya Kempadoo's writing until you, reader, have at least savored a taste of it. Tide Running, a dreamlike yet taut and anguished tale set on the Caribbean island of Tobago, is Kempadoo's second novel after Buxton Spice, a playfully steamy rendition of a girl's coming-of-age in Guyana. — Kai Maristed

Publishers Weekly
Kempadoo's second novel (after Buxton Spice) is a sensuous, richly vernacular account of a young Tobagonian's intimate, ultimately disastrous intersection with a vacationing married couple. Cliff is a shy, aimless 20-year-old in the sleepy town of Plymouth on the Caribbean island of Tobago, whose fatherless family scrapes by on what his mother hustles from the "goods boat." As Cliff observes his friends falling into drugs and crime, he gravitates toward the charming openness of an interracial family with a vacation house nearby: Bella, a Trinidadian photographer; her husband, Peter, an English corporate lawyer who is white; and their small child, Oliver. Gradually Cliff becomes a friendly presence in Peter and Bella's airy, stunning home, and then much more as their three-way relationship deepens. But when Cliff begins to steal from the couple, the view of the limitless ocean-a constant presence in the novel-shrinks to the restricted prospect of a jail cell. Most of the novel is narrated in Cliff's heavy Tobagonian argot, challenging then mesmerizing, with stream-of-consciousness interjections by Bella. Kempadoo, sagely, does not condemn the rich outsiders for taking advantage of Cliff's disenfranchisement, but offers each character space for his or her own self-justification: Bella entertains "some naive romance for [Cliff's] rootsy background"; Peter, older than his wife, tests his manliness against Cliff's in a mock-serious way; while Cliff remains an enigma, falling into criminality through a kind of "watch me nuh" boastfulness. Kempadoo's knowledge of the class-conscious ways and speech of the island people is deep and sensitive; her resistance to sentimentality imbues her narrative with moments of startling and incisive clarity. (May) Forecast: Kempadoo can hold her own alongside Jamaica Kincaid and should appeal to fans of Kincaid and other Caribbean writers. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
This latest novel by Caribbean author Kempadoo (Buxton Spice) examines the clash of class and culture that resonates beyond its island setting. Bella and Peter are the perfect couple living in an island paradise on Tobago-she a photographer from Trinidad, he a corporate lawyer transplanted from England; they enjoy their life together but with a kind of boredom. Then they meet Cliff, a good-looking young man from the poor town of Plymouth whose primary occupation is watching American television. Their relationship evolves into a menage- -trois but quickly degenerates into jealousy, suspicion, and betrayal. None of the characters sees how he or she is exploiting the others; nor do they try to overcome the divisions of race and money that confine their association to a sexual level. Kempadoo's gifts for crafting characters who stay true to themselves and for showing the personal consequences of cultural misunderstandings make this a novel that will appeal to a wider audience.-Ellen Flexman, Indianapolis- Marion Cty. P.L. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
An impulsive and inchoate sexual ménage embodies the incompatibility of contrasting classes—in a relentlessly lush second novel from the Guyanese-British author (Buxton Spice, 1999). On the Caribbean island of Tobago, 20-year-old Cliff Dunstan and his ebullient younger brother Ossi (a genial sex machine) drift between occasional employment and indolence, to the intermittent dismay of their forthright "Mudda" and disapproving sister Lynette (the unmarried mother of a two-year-old). The brothers fall into acquaintance with wealthy corporate attorney Peter Johnson and his smoldering biracial wife Bella, who invite the "boys" to their lavish home, wining and dining and seducing them, settling on the nubile (though sexually experienced) Cliff as a kind of erotic toy. An allegory of exploitation is suggested by numerous references to the wide social and economic gaps between the Johnsons and their plaything, perhaps best encapsulated in the tart remarks of the couple’s visiting Trinidadian friend SC (initials denote a rude sexual cognomen), who warns them against indigent blacks and pointedly confronts the frazzled Cliff ("How come you all reach so far, man?"). The bitter dénouement (the Johnsons’ money, then their car turn up missing, and suspicion inevitably falls on Cliff) is deadened by redundant courtroom scenes in which its already loose plot slackens even further. But the tale is energized by Kempadoo’s lovely language—especially in chapters from Cliff’s viewpoint—in a lilting patois filled with arresting usages ("gallery," "jealous," and "advantage" as verbs, and onomatopoetic action words like "slurk" and "squinny") and hauntingly vivid word pictures ("Bright-colorpirogues all ’round the jetty tippling like floating insects, bowed bamboo fishing poles like whiskers dipping"). Such moments (and there are many) create an aching impression of a languorous paradise unthinkingly appropriated and violated. Kempadoo charms and entices, but his intriguing narrative is not fully sustained.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807083734
  • Publisher: Beacon
  • Publication date: 6/15/2004
  • Series: Bluestreak Series
  • Edition description: None
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 806,804
  • Product dimensions: 5.35 (w) x 7.95 (h) x 0.55 (d)

Meet the Author

Oonya Kempadoo, author of Buxton Spice, was born in Sussex, England of Guyanese parents and was raised in Guyana from the age of four. She studied art in Amsterdam and has lived in Trinidad, St. Lucia, Tobago, and now Grenada. She was named a Great Talent for the Twenty-First Century by the Orange Prize judges and is a winner of the Casa de las Americas Prize.

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