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When Ferron Morgan’s father dies in suspicious circumstances, his trauma is exacerbated by the conflict within his family and his father’s friends over whether the death was the result of medical negligence or if it was a political assassination. Ferron has lived in awe of his father’s radical political endeavors but is forced to admit that, with the resurgence of the political right in the Caribbean in the 1980s, his father had lost faith, and was “already dead to everything that had meaning for him.”

Ferron’s response to the death is further complicated by guilt, particularly over his recent failure to protect his fiancée, Dolores, from a brutal rape. He begins, though, to investigate the direction of his life with great intensity, in particular to confront his instinct to keep moving on and running from trouble.

This is a sharply focused portrayal of Jamaica at a tipping point in its recent past, in which the private grief and trauma condenses a whole society’s scarcely understood sense of temporariness and dislocation. For both Ferron and the society there has been the loss of “the corpse of one’s origins,” and the novel points to the need to find a way back before there can be a movement forward.