The Same Earth

by Debbie Stoller

In this coming-of-age novel, a young woman named Imelda Richardson escapes from Jamaica during the hurricane of 1974, forcing her to start a new life in England.

Years later, she finds herself back home after her mother’s death, only to feel like her island home is pushing her out again. In the small town of Watersgate, there is gossip and religious zeal to contend with. And when Imelda tries to spearhead a watchdog group after a fellow villager claims someone has stolen her underwear, she’s accused of replacing God and is told she’s going to hell as floods threaten her home once again.

Though this tale centers around its 28-year-old female protagonist, the story really shines in the vignettes that showcase the memories of the other colorful and flawed people in Imelda’s world, including hypocritical deacon wife-beaters and a ganja-growing expat Jamaican. And the narrative is just as much about the dueling dichotomies of old and new, heaven and hell, and the idea that “nothing is really what it seems” as it is about Imelda’s awakening to freedom from society’s restraints. Kei Miller illustrates Imelda’s journey of identity with humor and balladry, weaving a seamlessly poetic and handcrafted folk song. He also creates a strong, punchy female lead who’s also very relatable-a feat for a 31-year-old male writer. From her first orgasm with “the boy who played drums well,” you can’t help but feel charmed-and inspired-as Imelda realizes that the old and new world both exist on the same earth.

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