Land of Love and Drowning (2014) by Tiphanie Yanique
I had never heard of Tiphanie Yanique until I heard of her short story collection, How to Escape from a Leper Colony, in a Lenny letter book club. Her story-telling style was compared to Gabriel Garcia Marquez, so I had to find out more. Land of Love and Drowning is a work steeped in factual history, personal and familial history and myths, magic realism, and the tension between a people and place, culture and race.
It follows the lives of two sisters in the Virgin Islands, one born before American assimilation and one born after. They are descended from mythical creatures with strange and uncertain powers, and it is the history and tragedy of their family that haunts and shapes their lives.
What I took from this book is a strong sense of female story telling, of dwelling on family and place and the magic that weaves, binds and separates the two. I was delighted and relieved by the attitudes of the sisters, who alternatively embrace and struggle with their destinies by falling in and out of love as it finds them and leaves them, keeping the wrong secrets at the right time and loving themselves and their home with a strong vulnerability. They seek to make their own fate, but are carried on a current of repeated history that pulls them under and only releases them when they surrender to it completely.