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Redemption in Indigo by Karen Lord

Redemption in Indigo (original 2010; edition 2010)

by Karen Lord

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223None51,959 (3.88)49
Title:Redemption in Indigo
Authors:Karen Lord
Info:Small Beer Press (2010), Paperback, 188 pages
Collections:Your library, Read but unowned, Read in 2012
Tags:2012, Barbados

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Redemption in Indigo by Karen Lord (2010)


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...Redemption in Indigo is an unusual book in many respects. There is the way the story is told, with a very present narrator and a myriad of side plots that seem to go nowhere but are somehow essential to the novel. There is the elusive strong female main character that the fantasy genre is trying so hard to find. There is African inspired setting and mythological influences that you only rarely find in English language literature. All of this and more Lord manages to put into a relatively short novel. The book is so many things that don't usually come up when people think fantasy that is should really open the reader's eyes about what is possible in fantastical literature. It is quite simply a great read. For anybody who wants more out of the genre than your typical Tolkienesque epic fantasy, this novel is a must read.

Full Random Comments review ( )
  Valashain | Mar 8, 2014 |
At times delightfully playful with words and descriptions, but for me the style of narrator (fairytale tale-spinner) removed any sense of real danger to the characters and lessened the emotional impact this book could have had. Still delightful, though. ( )
  StigE | Feb 22, 2014 |
This was a good book but too fanciful for my tastes. I had trouble following the many analogies and spirit figures but enjoyed the tale. ( )
  snash | Feb 14, 2014 |
I've been meaning to read something by Karen Lord for a while. For some reason, the fact that a group I participate in a lot on GR is reading one of her other books (which I also own) next month made me read this one. I won't question it too much, because I enjoyed this a lot. It's a short/quick read, and it's different: it isn't at all your run of the mill fantasy. I read it without knowing any of the background stuff about it being based on a Senegalese story, and I don't regret that -- instead of looking for the joining places between Lord's story and the original story, I enjoyed the whole thing.

It's told fairly simply, in the style of a more or less oral narrative -- there's a conversational narrator, and the basic ideas are easy to lay hold of. I really enjoyed that it was in many ways a domestic story, with cooking and family at its heart. I also enjoyed that I didn't guess every twist exactly right.

Because of the fable/fairytale-like tone, I wasn't looking for too much from the characters: the execution matches the form, while still providing likeable/pitiable who you can, to some extent, get to know. Still, if characters, setting, etc, really matter to you, then this might not be for you. I'm normally all about the characters, but this so perfectly hit my soft spots for a) something new and different and b) something that emulates another form well that I couldn't resist it. ( )
  shanaqui | Sep 27, 2013 |
The Booklist review quoted on the cover: "One of those literary works of which it can be said that not a word should be changed," may have unfairly primed me for this story. On the one hand, nothing makes me go "Aw, yeah?" like such an assertion, but on the other hand...Booklist may well be right. This story seems in some ways above criticism. Even when the reader's suspension of disbelief is aroused or the plot takes a dissatisfying turn, Lord's narrator is prepared to get very in-your-face to defend certain artistic decisions. Since this is for humorous effect rather than browbeating the reader into submission, I rather liked it. Or maybe I was just browbeaten.

In more ways than one, Redemption in Indigo is masterfully told, with a light touch and clever awareness of archetypes it plays with. Unlikely coincidences (like the trouble Paama's husband gets himself into, or the denouement of the romance between her sister and a poor poet) become perfectly logical in context, and to say they're silly seems to be missing the point. I've seen at least one disgruntled Goodreads review comparing this story to Paul Coelho's "new agey" writing, but more focused on storytelling than the lesson. I don't think Redemption is supposed to have a lesson at all, and to expect one is to misunderstand it (I also feel like pointing out that Coelho is rarely shelved in the fantasy section, which is where I found Redemption; whether this is a credit to the "Sci Fi Ghetto" I leave for others to debate). It is, above all, a story. This doesn't mean it lacks themes--including the power of choice, the failure of human foresight, the two combining into chaos, plus redemptive arcs (are you surprised?) for several characters, both human and nonhuman (now that surprised me!).

And, insofar as it draws directly on the folklore style Coelho is attempting to recreate, I'd say Redemption got there first.

Short and fast-paced, the story contains a multitude of very likeable characters, and even the less likeable ones--Paama's obsessed husband and her selfish younger sister--grow sympathetic. Also, Redemption in Indigo is the first time I've ever seen a Trickster achetype have such a character arc. I'll say no more about that, to avoid spoilers. But I will say, while Redemption's mythic undertones make it feel like you should be able to predict the outcome, I was genuinely surprised by the ending. One character did seem to appear out of nowhere (or more properly, reappear--he's there at the opening of the story and pretty much forgotten for the next hundred pages), to the point that I half expected him to be one of the supernatural djombi, too. I think that's the only complaint I can make about the story's construction.

While you might be confused at the opening--the setting is modern, in a fictionalized African nation with deep traditional roots, so I was at first unsure of the time period until a character boarded a "five-hour omnibus with nothing more than a small suitcase and a bottle of antinausea, antacid chews" on page 16; and the talking spider is introduced with, as it happens, deliberate nonchalantness--you're well advised to put your trust in Lord and her narrator (if not the talking spider) and watch the story unfold.

A longer version of this review appears at Story Addict . ( )
  T.Arkenberg | Sep 10, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 21 (next | show all)
Inspired by a Senegalese folktale, Redemption in Indigo is the perfect antidote to the formula fantasies currently flooding the market. When Paama finally leaves her husband Ansige after 10 years of marriage, he follows her in an attempt to win her back. After a series of humorous, often slapstick episodes in which foolish Ansige gets himself into deeper trouble, only to be extricated by Paama, the watching djombi spirits give Paama the Chaos Stick which allows her to affect chance and probability. However, the Indigo Lord wants the stick back, kidnaps Paama, takes her on a wondrous tour and attempts to impress her with his magic. Précis fails to do justice to the novel's depth, beauty and elegant simplicity. Written from the point of view of an omniscient storyteller in the style of an oral narrative, this is a subtle, wise and playful meditation on life and fate.
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To the memory of my mother, Muriel Haynes Lord
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A rival of mine once complained that my stories begin awkwardly and end untidily.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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A re-telling of a Senegalese folktale. Paama is presented with a gift from the undying ones: the Chaos Stick, which allows her to manipulate the subtle forces of the world.

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Karen Lord is a LibraryThing Author, an author who lists their personal library on LibraryThing.

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Small Beer Press

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