In Caribbean, the Michener imprint is unusually sunny considering how bleak much of Caribbean history is.
The first chapter ends with cannibals eating a tribe they despise for playing ballgames instead of making war.
That sets the stage for centuries of conflicts both among those who live around the Caribbean Sea and between nations far away who prefer to fight their wars far from home. (More civilized, don’t ya’ know.)
Famous names like Columbus and Sir Francis Drake appear, along with a host of less familiar Caribbean heroes and villains.
The chapters of Caribbean read almost like short stories, which makes the hefty novel very accessible.
Two intertwined themes run through all the stories: Race relations and economic survival.
From the appearance of white explorers to Michener’s day, the Western belief in white superiority prevented darker skinned individuals from participating in a significant way in the islands’ economies.
The exodus of the most talented among them has left the islands at the mercy of the North American tourist trade.
The novel is worth reading as a novel and equally worth reading as a discussion of economic and political realities that are still impacting the United States.
Caribbean by James A. Michener
Cartography by Jean Paul Tremblay
Illustrations by Franca Nucci Haynes
Random House. ©1989. 672 p.
1989 bestseller #5 my grade: A+
©2019 Linda G. Aragoni