If you’re like me, the only thing you know about the Bahamas is that they are an island paradise in the Caribbean Sea. One reason for undertaking this global reading project is to look beyond the stereotypes and learn about these countries from the perspectives of people who live and work there.
Ian G. Strachan’s novel, God’s Angry Babies, tells the story of a family living in an area of the Bahamas that the tourists don’t see. The family is headed by the formidable Maureen Bodie, who left her good-for-nothing husband and raised their four sons on her own. With a father who doesn’t believe girls need an education and a husband who can’t be bothered to lift a finger on behalf of his wife and children, Maureen has had to carve out her own path to success. With the help of a government scholarship, she takes her young sons abroad with her and earns a college degree. Upon her return to the Bahamas, she gets a job as a vice principal making enough money to have a house built for her family in a nice neighborhood and to pay for a good education for her sons.
Maureen is also politically active, backing the PNF (Progressive National Front) party in the post-colonial Bahamas. When her youngest son Mark (also known as Tree) gets accepted into college abroad, Maureen urges him to talk to their Member of Parliament (MP), also a member of the PNF party, to ensure that he gets a government scholarship. Mark agrees reluctantly, since his political views are more closely aligned with the out-of-power FLP (Free Liberal Party). By requesting the MP’s help, however, Mark is coerced into working on the MP’s election campaign, where political dirty tricks abound.
Racism, sexism, and homophobia are encountered often by characters in this novel, and political corruption is a continuing theme. Through it all, Maureen Bodie’s strength and devotion to her sons provides inspiration to the reader.
I gave this book three stars out of five on GoodReads, not because I didn’t like it, but because of the author’s overuse of colloquial speech to tell the story. While a certain amount of vernacular can help to make the characters come to life, too much can distract from the plot and make it difficult for the reader to understand what the characters are saying. I felt like that’s what happened in this book, where there were entire chapters written in the vernacular. If not for that, I would have given the book four stars.
I would have expected to find more food descriptions in this novel, but there wasn't much to work with, so I started googling Bahamian recipes instead. I found a recipe for Bahamian-style peas and rice on the allrecipes.com website that seemed to fit the bill. I left out the bacon and replaced the butter with margarine to make it vegan. The only other issue was that the recipe calls for pigeon peas, which I have never seen in any of my local grocery stores. I did a little more searching to see what an acceptable substitute for pigeon peas might be, and found that black-eyed peas would work. This turned out to be a very tasty dish!
Now that I've discovered GlobalGiving.org, that's the first place I look when I'm researching organizations to receive my Booktrekker donations. I was happy to find an opportunity there to donate to the Earthwatch Institute, which has projects worldwide that allow people to engage "in scientific field research and education to promote the understanding and action necessary for a sustainable environment." Their project in the Bahamas involves research to help save the habitat of the green sea turtle and the hawksbill sea turtle. More information about this project is available at https://www.globalgiving.org/projects/saving-sea-turtles-in-the-bahamas-with-earthwatch/.
NEXT STOP: BAHRAIN