Celeste Mohammed | Trinidad and Tobago
I first discovered this book around Mother’s Day and I gifted myself that entire Sunday to lay on my couch and read this book from cover to cover (I rarely, if ever, read a book in a day). I was going through a 6-week reading slump but this impressive collection of inter-connected short stories allowed me to drift off to this area called Pleasantview, a fictional village in Trinidad.
Living in Pleasantview are a host of characters reminiscent of what you would find in almost any small village or area in Trinidad: the village old lady that everyone respects and fears and who knows everybody else’s business; the local pretty girl in a relationship with the well-off married man; the wealthy, corrupt businessman who horns his wife with the local pretty girl; and the local bad john young men looking for trouble. But then there are the unique characters: the Venezuelan immigrant trying to find her way in a new country, the young man trying to fit in among men, the confused young woman with broken ties to her family in Pleasantview.
Each story is like a slice of macaroni pie, each piece having the same ingredients, but still slightly different because of the size of each slice. Similarly, the people of Pleasantview are experiencing the same poverty and corruption at the hands of the same people, but they each carry their individual pain. Mohammed explores illegal immigration, sexual and domestic abuse, homophobia, incarceration, mental illness, religious discrepancies, and the regular village gossip!
Short story writing is a staple of Caribbean literature. What Mohammed does well, and makes Pleasantview unique, is that each story builds on the former, casting a web incrementally wider by introducing more characters and expanding the story lines on characters already introduced. You will ache for some and want to planass others! The ex-tempo at the wake was just….fire! (San-tee-man-e-tay!)
Mohammed is a solid writer who’s done an excellent job capturing the way life flows in small villages where racial tensions, big- and small-time criminals, and those trying to swim upstream without getting wet, all mesh.
For more insight on Celeste Mohammed’s book Pleasantview: A Novel in Stories, read our conversation.
First published: 2021
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