Posted in [fiction reviews]

[Fiction Review] “Hurricane Summer” by Asha Bromfield

Full Title: Hurricane Summer: A Novel
Author: Asha Bromfield
Published: May 4, 2021 by Wednesday Books
Genres: Fiction, Young Adult, Coming of Age, Contemporary, BIPOC Representation
Edition Details: 400 pages, hardcover
Source: ARC – offered by Wednesday Books, via NetGalley
Rating: {4/5 stars}

This is a spoiler-free review. No details will be shared from the storyline itself that aren’t available or inferred from the book jacket and online descriptions.

First Glance

This book landed on my radar after I saw a couple of ads for it online. One of the ads allowed interested bloggers and readers to sign up for the official blog tour. I applied to participate, because I thought it’d be great to read the book before it came through our local library on my TBR. I received a free e-book ARC via NetGalley for Hurricane Summer after signing up.

Positive Bits

I need to break from my normal pattern here to share the first line that hooked me and drew me in. It comes from the dedication page, and it set the stage of what would be a heartfelt and raw story of family and self-discovery.

For Little Asha,
And all the girls with holes
in their hearts,
the size of their fathers.
You are worthy.
You are resilient.
You are love.
I poured my heart onto
these pages,
With the prayer that it
would give you the courage
To set yourself free.

That said, the second bit that excited me was the word bank included before the first chapter. I don’t think enough people appreciate the ideal placement of a language glossary at the front of a book, particularly in e-book format. As Patois (the dialect of English spoken in Jamaica) plays a constant role in the story, being able to review and get familiar with some of the common phrases before diving into the meat of the story helped immerse me in it. Instead of struggling through unfamiliar words and phrases, I had a rough understanding of the dialect going into the story. My understanding also matched that of Tilla, our main character, so we were left on equal footing with the narrator.

Tilla’s deep love and need for her father gripped me from early in the story and kept me captive in her desperation to be loved back. As the book’s description says, he’s a man who’s traveled to and from his family in Canada to be back home in Jamaica for half of every year. In coming to visit his homeland, she hopes to find out why he never stayed with them for long – she wants to understand that the siren call of Jamaica sounds like, to be so much more powerful than the love of a family. And I think, by the end of the book, Tilla gains that knowledge as well as a clearer image of who her father is as a person. Forgiveness plays a role in various layers throughout Tilla’s summer, and how she chooses to give or abstain from giving forgiveness plays a crucial role in who she grows into by the end of it all. I may not have made the same choices as she did, but each one she made fit who she was at that moment.

Aside from her father, there are a dozen or so characters who play a role in Tilla’s coming of age over the course of this summer in Jamaica. However, my favorite would be her cousin Andre. They were close friends as children, over a decade ago when Tilla’s family all came down to the island to visit. Experiencing their rekindled friendship felt the same as my own relationships after moving around with the military my whole life; there are just some people who you connect with instantly and consistently. Andre is Tilla’s best friend in the way only a cousin can be, and without his involvement I don’t believe her summer would’ve been so alive. He provides the perfect foil to Tilla’s more privileged life in Canada, compared to his life in the countryside of Jamaica – but without judging her for it. Andre plays the part of both her safe haven and the devil on her shoulder that dares her to do something reckless, and I only wish there were more of him to go around.

Less Enjoyable Bits

This book should’ve had a trigger warning, but I can see how including it might’ve ruined the plot. Still, sexual violence of any kind is a heavy topic that deserves a head’s up. That said, I will note that the violence isn’t explicitly graphic or used as the only method through which a character can grow as a person. It fit the story, so just be aware as you read that Jamaica isn’t all paradise.

It’s hard to really consider the pieces of the story I didn’t enjoy, because most of those moments are key to the story. Hurricane Summer is about the father-daughter dynamic in the context of an absentee father who’s coming and going to Jamaica constantly throughout Tilla’s life. As someone with their own complicated father-daughter relationship, I think I just get frustrated by someone being either too kind or too harsh to either party in the dynamic – all based on my biased opinion of who is in the wrong, of course. Add in the difficulty of tackling topics like classism and colorism while pointing the blame at the primary culprit (society), and much of what I didn’t like about the story was meant to be unlikeable. Instead, it’s a mirror into how flawed families, communities, and even paradise itself can be.

The same could be said for the family dynamics at large, from cousins to aunts and uncles to the community itself. I both understood and disliked them for being inherently human and flawed. That’s the point, though. By the end of any good story, we find ourselves more aware of the humanity in both the heroes and the villains. The author did this amazingly well, leaving us as wrung out and changed as an island battered by a hurricane.

Tidbits Worth Repeating

Your skin is dark and magical. And every time you get darker, it’s just proof that the sun is wrapping itself around you. Hugging you. Tight. Every ray of sun that darkens your skin is proof that you’re soaking up all of God’s light. – 43%

“Only God know di heart weh ah beat from yuh chest. Yuh understand?” he whispers. “Yuh haffi decide who you are before di world does. Don’t mek nobody decide fi yuh. Only you decide dat. You and God.” – 86%

This summer you have traveled a sea I will never have knowledge of. Your heart has fought battles that I will never, ever know. But if there is one thing I knew for sure when I sent you on the plane, I knew that you would be victorious, Tilla. Because you are our child. I know what you are made of, and you are so strong. – 94%

Is it worth the coin?

Yes – Asha Bromfield did an amazing job capturing the pain and paradise of growing into a woman, as well as learning about where you come from and who you want to be. Her heart is on these pages, and you’ll cry at least once before you reach the end.

Author:

bookdragon, poet, witch

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