I really enjoyed this.
This is just a pleasure to read. It’s very heavily influenced by West Indian and West African folklore (apparently) and so it shouldn’t come as so much of a surprise that, like so many other traditional morality tales, the plainer human virtues of humility and perseverance are given due prominence. The trouble with those kinds of virtues though is that they’re kind of boring, and a story where the main character embodies them could be just as insipid and dull.
However, the narrator is as much a character in this tale as those he (?) speaks of, and what’s really interesting is the way it’s the secondary characters – the antagonists – whose story this really is. People talk about ‘round’ characters, characters who develop, who go on a journey, and Paama’s character development is pretty much done inside the first third of the book. She’s the main character – I hesitate to say protagonist because her actions are largely, though crucially not completely, at the whim of other more powerful forces. It’s some of these characters, the tricksters and gods who seemingly stand against her, who undergo the most obvious and profound changes over the story.
It’s a very neatly done bait-and-switch. More importantly, given the current fascination with grit, darkness, and moral ‘complexity’, it’s a glowing example of how to be both thought provoking and pleasant simultaneously. No mean feat, that.