"A literary exploration of grief [and] family schisms. Fractured memories and dreams of the past infuse this unassuming story with a rich and elusive history spanning three countries, and they depict a family that’s more orchard than tree. The novel’s sedate pacing, which evokes rocking-chair musings on mortality and responsibility, brings a welcome reprieve from stories laden with plot twists and action for the sake of it. Hemans’ thoughtful family tale is a balm for readers." —Kirkus Reviews
“Emotionally honest, The House of Plain Truth is ripe with secrets and sacrifice. Teeming with family drama, and lush descriptions that leapt off the page and rooted me in place. Hemans’ writing is lyrical and her characters stayed with me long after the book was over.” —Sadeqa Johnson, author of The House of Eve
“In this book, set primarily in her native Jamaica, Donna Hemans reminds us what a debt the world owes Caribbean people—those who migrate, as well as those who remain to buttress the families left behind. Ours is a story of faith, risk, estrangement, and ultimately, longing, which Hemans evokes through characters who are unforgettable precisely because we seem to be remembering them. Hemans’ great triumph is how her prose witnesses history with dignified tenderness and with a clarity which never gets in the reader’s way or prescribes what we should feel about the plain truth.”—Celeste Mohammed, author of OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature winner Pleasantview
“The House of Plain Truth is a rich and layered novel. It's not only a compelling family mystery and a moving story of generational healing and reconciliation, but also a profound portrait of the emotional aftermath of voluntary and forced migration. An extraordinary achievement.”—Maisy Card, author of These Ghosts Are Family
“In prose that pulses with the tempo, climate, and luxuriant beauty of Jamaica, Donna Hemans chronicles the tragic consequences of intergenerational migration and estrangement, colonial brutality, and the chaos of revolution on one Jamaican family. The House of Plain Truth is a heart-wrenching novel of loss and grief with profound resonance in today’s migratory world.”—Aimee Liu, author of Glorious Boy
"A luminous tale of one Jamaican family's legacy, with vivid historical insights into early 20th century Caribbean life. Very few Caribbean writers today render ordinary Caribbean people with the extraordinary acuity of Hemans. The House of Plain Truth stands out not only for its keen and rich development of the inner lives of its characters, but also for its thematic echoing of a family's past and present grief, as it attempts to right its future.” —Lauren Francis-Sharma, author of Book of the Little Axe
"Donna Hemans tends to her words with the patience of a gardener deep in roses. The quality of Ms. Hemans' pacing is so telling—tenacious and epic—that the reader will remain transfixed from the very first to the very lovely end." —Tara Stringfellow, author of Memphis
A 60-something woman returns home to Jamaica to visit her dying father in this affecting family saga from Hemans (Tea by the Sea). In Brooklyn, where Pearline has lived for decades, people regularly ask her where she’s from and why she doesn’t want to live there. Upon arriving in Jamaica, she’s taunted by her sisters Hermina and Aileen for having spent too much time away (Aileen derisively calls her “Miss America”). Shortly before Pearline’s father, Rupert, dies, he asks her to “find them for me.” She believes his dying wish refers to the sisters’ older siblings in Cuba, whom Pearline knew as a child when Rupert temporarily moved the family there so he could work on a sugar plantation. Pearline examines her father’s documents and attempts to piece together the story of his life and track down the Cuban siblings. Meanwhile, Hermina and Aileen wish she would drop the search, as they plan to sell the house and don’t want any complications involving the estate. Though there are no big surprises when the family’s secrets are unveiled, Hemans ably depicts Pearline’s longing for acceptance and closure. This is worth a look. (Jan.)
After living in Brooklyn for more than 30 years, a woman returns to her childhood home in Jamaica.
At 93, Rupert Greaves is not long for this world, and Pearline, his 60-something daughter, has returned to her childhood home to be by his side in his final days. In the U.S., Pearline is still viewed as an outsider, a “resident alien” after three decades, and she hopes to find a sense of belonging in her homeland. She soon learns the hard truth that returning home is far from easy. “Sometimes she feels herself trying too hard...a feeling that she’s performing Jamaicanness.” Her sisters, Aileen and Hermina, see her as an interloper who’s been away too long to know the problems they face; young Claudia—the child of her father’s caretaker—has become her temporary responsibility. And then there’s the matter of her father’s baffling final wish. For the past 60 years, Rupert has refused to acknowledge the three adult children who stayed behind when the family returned to Jamaica from Cuba (as well as another who died as a child). His deathbed wish—“Find them for me. You are my memory now”—goes unheeded by her sisters, who want to sell the family land and wash their hands of it, but for Pearline, this responsibility weighs heavy. Despite Rupert’s charge, much of the novel is more a literary exploration of grief, family schisms, and belonging than a search for missing siblings. Fractured memories and dreams of the past infuse this unassuming story with a rich and elusive history spanning three countries, and they depict a family that’s more orchard than tree. The novel’s sedate pacing, which evokes rocking-chair musings on mortality and responsibility, brings a welcome reprieve from stories laden with plot twists and action for the sake of it.
Hemans’ thoughtful family tale is a balm for readers.