Book Review: 4 Treasure Boxes
Publisher: Amistad; Reprint edition (April 23, 2013), Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers, File Size: 635 KB, Print Length: 306 pages (Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0061337560), ASIN: B00C0UHKEM
In From Harvey River: A Memoir of My Mother and Her People Goodison tells her mother’s story through tales from the past. Although the book is a memoir, much of it is fiction because it is an imaginative reconstruction of Goodison’s family history using both fact and fiction. Goodison utilizes ghosts—the specters of her ancestors—as a method of linking the past to the present, and tells the story through voices from the past. Almost all memories of Margaret (Goodison’s grandmother) are reimagined, because as Goodison writes, “[e]xcept for the eldest siblings, Barbara and Howard, most of the children had no real memory of Margaret”. Yet “they always felt her presence, for Doris [Goodison’s mother] quoted her every day” (Goodison 254). Ghosts are the history of the past coming forward, reappearing, and providing insight on prior events.
Lorna Goodison is a poet, an author of short stories, and an artist. She has received several awards for her work, and she has been writing poetry since her teens. She was born in Kingston, Jamaica on August 1, 1947, and From Harvey River is the legacy of Goodison’s roots. Much of the writing reflects the impact of her family’s heritage—a legacy that is driven by spirits and ghosts derived from both African and Jamaican beliefs.
The book itself is a return to childhood, and contains the forgotten and unknowable history of the past, of Goodison’s past, of her mother’s past, and of her mother’s people’s past. Ghosts are non-corporeal beings that are manifestations of ethereal or metaphysical conscious energies. The appearance of ghosts in this story is the transcendence of people from the past moving through linear time and space in order to interact with the characters. This communication creates cracks in space and makes room for a connection between the past and the present, and this breach is often transcended through dreams. Goodison informs the reader the book itself was “handed” to her by her mother’s ghost, when the author “began to ‘dream’ her [mother], as Jamaicans say” (Goodison 2).
From Harvey River is a memoir of Goodison’s mother. On the surface this history appears unremarkable, but the combination of fiction, history, and family lore, told from the point of view of spirits in the past, creates an interesting and intriguing tale. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I found it touching, and at times it made me laugh, and other times it made me cry. If you enjoy a good read about interesting people in a unique and fascinating setting then I recommend this book as an excellent read.