Book Review: The Star Side of Bird Hill by Naomi Jackson

In this coming of age novel, readers learn about the Carribean-American immigrant experience from the eyes of 16-year-old Dionne and her 10-year-old sister Phaedra. The girls are sent by their mother Avril, who is suffering from depression to spend the summer with their grandmother Hyacinth in Bird Hill, Barbados. Little did the girls know, but this would be the summer that changes their lives forever.

In Brooklyn, their once vibrant mother has succumbed to the fears of her depression and becomes confined to the couch. Dionne takes on the role of providing for herself and her sister as best she can. The girl’s father, Errol also from Barbados left the family when their girls were young as he fell prey to the perils of alcoholism.

In Barbados, the girls are welcomed warmly by their peer groups who want to learn about life in the states, in the city of New York. Phadera draws closer to her grandmother Hyacinth, learning the ways of midwifery and Obeah practices as this magic is in their blood. Dionne is resistant to life in Bird Hill and eagerly awaits the day she can return home to Brooklyn. As the summer continues the girls fall into the routine of life in Bird Hill even as disaster follows them to Bird Hill and threatens their return to Brooklyn.

When their father shows up unannounced, the girls are happy to be reunited with him and eager to make up for lost times but Hyacinth has her doubts. As the girls begin to spend more time with their father and his new girlfriend the girls begin to see his true colors and learn the reason he married their mother and the reason he left and the reasons Hyacinth never trusted him.

By the end of the novel, the girls realize, their true home is with Hyacinth in Bird Hill. Even Dionne comes to respect and appreciate her grandmother despite the opposition she gave her at the start of the novel. They say that trama brings people together and everyone handles trauma differently. With their new found understanding of one another; the girls come to realize that no one else is going to love them as much as they love each other despite their flaws. In the Star Side of Bird Hill, Naomi Jackson paints a beautiful story, of womanhood, trama, magic, and healing against the backdrop of the Carribean.

 

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