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Black Lightning (Caribbean Writers Series)…
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Black Lightning (Caribbean Writers Series)

by Roger Mais

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Black Lightning by Roger Mais is a short novel on relationships which is centered on the struggles of an artist. Jamaica is not explicitly set as a backdrop as Mais utilizes fairly flat characters applicable to any setting. The introduction to the book states that Mais is making an attempt at myth making, and the characters tend to fall into certain archetypes that would make the story recognizable across cultures. Jamaica is still present however, as the characters sing songs and interact within their homes adjacent to a forest. Black Lightning examines this Jamaican community which despite the character’s aspirations, is filled with misunderstanding, threats of violence, and melancholy.

Jake, a sculptor, has recently been left by his wife Estrella. Elsewhere in the village, Jake’s assistant, Miriam, is deciding whether to engage in a relationship with Glen, the local Lothario. Attitudes towards women are addressed bluntly, and the sub-plot between Miriam and Glen distracts from the more interesting psychological novel found in the main story. Jake is working on a sculpture of the biblical Samson. He sees himself within the figure, and is in turn blinded as well. Later we learn how Jake has struggled with his sculpture, his own limitations, and his place within society. Jake is a pillar of local society, a moral man struggling to fit within his community. He rehabilitates the disfigured Amos into society, and their discussions are used to illustrate the torment Jake feels as he wrestles with his inner demons. Jake’s identity is unsettled, he is of noble character, but also abandoned by his wife. While his occupation is as a blacksmith, we find him pursuing a wood carving of Samson. Obsessed with the story of Samson, Jake pursues his own self-destruction in a search for meaning.

While the introduction states the challenges within the writing of Black Lightning, the character of Amos provides the best writing in the book. His scene with the young, confused Miriam is the one part of the novel that feels true. This encourages further reading of Mais. ( )
  brianjungwi | Jun 24, 2014 |
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