In Love After Love, Trinidadian author Ingrid Persaud challenges the reader’s definitions of love and family by presenting Indo-Caribbean characters who are bound by intimacy as a means of comparison to the more traditional bonds of marriage and blood relations.
The plot begins when a single man, Mr. Chetan, moves in to share a house with a young widow and her son, Miss Betty and Solo. Their mutual need keeps them together and eventually, the relationship transcends what Betty and her husband had before he died. As the child grows, so do the adults’ ease with each other, and deep secrets are revealed but the tight intimacy threatens everything around it and eventually, the relationship between mother and son groans under the weight.
Although the narrative includes violent descriptions of abuse and torture, and the perspective switches back and forth to follow each of the main characters over several years, this is not your typical coming-of-age novel and the plot development is not your average parent/child/step-parent drama. Instead, the twists and turns of this story broaches generational tendencies, LGBTQ awareness, mental health and immigration to name a few of the themes Persaud explores.
Love After Love thrills with Caribbean representation – from the vivid descriptions of flowers, food and Carnival to the step-by-step directions for how to season and cook local delicacies to the idiomatic expressions that pepper the characters’ dialogue, to the rituals and customs uniquely practiced by Caribbean people of Indian descent, each page is an experience of Trinidad.
Readers should be aware that Love After Love is not a timidly-told tale. Indeed, Persaud boldly builds a house then sets it on fire and the graphic content she includes and the descriptions she brushes with, vary in intensity throughout the book. But while the narrative includes quite a bit of indigenous expression, the context makes it easy to read and only helps to add local flavor to the book.
Note: I received a free electronic Advanced Reader Copy of Love After Love from Penguin Random House and Netgalley in order to complete this review. I was not otherwise compensated and my statements above represent my honest opinion about this book.