The Roving Tree by Elsie Augustave
Akashic Books/Open Lens
The Roving Tree by Elsie Augustave is a remarkable debut novel. Protagonist, Iris, was born in Haiti to a poor, single woman named Hagathe who had good reason to fear for Iris’s safety. When Iris is five years old, Hagathe agreed to allow Iris to be adopted by a white, American couple with the means to give Iris a good quality of life. Iris retains some memories of her short time in Haiti and eventually asks about Hagathe and is told Hagathe requested that Iris not return to Haiti until she is an adult. Iris does return to Haiti, but not for the reasons one would expect.
While in Haiti, Iris learns much about her family’s beliefs, history, culture and African roots. She sees for herself the contrast between her life in America and that of life in Haiti during the Duvalier regime. After graduating from college she considers returning to Haiti as a teacher. Instead she accepts a job offer to teach dance in Zaire even though she remains closely connected to her American family. Perhaps she was searching for something in Africa that she didn’t have at home. Where does she belong?
In many respects, Iris adapts to life in Zaire but complications arise when she enters into a romantic relationship. Which culture defines Iris- Haitian, American or African? It may be that aspects of each contribute to the decisions she has to make. The characters are complex, believable and each with their own story. They play important roles in Iris’s identity search. This is an eloquently written and memorable novel. I recommend reading this book.
I received this book free of charge from LibrayThing and I give this review of my own free will.