As young teenagers in 1938, Gloria Campbell and her sister Marcia flee Jamaica's countryside for Kingston following a violent incident in their home. With few connections or skills, alone in an unfamiliar city, the sisters end up in a brothel run by a pair of strong women willing to take them in. Here Gloria meets Pao, a racketeer and enforcer in Chinatown, who soon becomes more than a customer. The changing political tides make it difficult for Gloria and Pao to be together, but encourage Gloria to become part of a larger social upheaval, allowing her to recognize her own value and strength.
Within the early pages of Gloria, Kerry Young easily transports readers to streets Kingston. Instantly noticeable is the strong Jamaican dialect, which is used throughout the novel, fairly easy to adjust to and does wonders for setting the overall tone. Without ever having traveled the region, it is possible to fully visualize Gloria's world through Young's vivid imagery.
That world is filled with more than a simple coming of age tale. Over the course of several decades, Gloria examines forgiveness, social justice and, ultimately, acceptance. Gloria herself is a beautifully developed, strong female character - a perfect companion for Young's vibrant setting.
While some readers may avoid reading novels written in dialect, in this case they would be missing out. Kerry Young's Gloria is a unique piece of historical fiction, rich with culture and full of transformation.
Blog: River City Reading