The Human Origins of Beatrice Porter and Other Essential Ghosts Summary and Reviews

The Human Origins of Beatrice Porter and Other Essential Ghosts

A Novel

by Soraya Palmer

The Human Origins of Beatrice Porter and Other Essential Ghosts by Soraya Palmer X
The Human Origins of Beatrice Porter and Other Essential Ghosts by Soraya Palmer
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Book Summary

Folktales and spirits animate this lively and unforgettable coming-of-age tale of two Jamaican-Trinidadian sisters in Brooklyn grappling with their mother's illness, their father's infidelity, and the truth of their family's past.

Sisters Zora and Sasha Porter are drifting apart. Bearing witness to their father's violence and their mother's worsening illness, an unsettled Zora escapes into her journal, dreaming of being a writer, while Sasha discovers sex and chest binding, spending more time with her new girlfriend than at home.

But the sisters, like their parents, must come together to answer to something more ancient and powerful than they know—and reckon with a family secret buried in the past. A tale told from the perspective of a mischievous narrator, featuring the Rolling Calf who haunts butchers, Mama Dglo who lives in the ocean, a vain tiger, and an outsmarted snake, The Human Origins of Beatrice Porter and Other Essential Ghosts is set in a world as alive and unpredictable as Helen Oyeyemi's.

Telling of the love between sisters who don't always see eye to eye, this extraordinary debut novel is a celebration of the power of stories, asking, What happens to us when our stories are erased? Do we disappear? Or do we come back haunting?

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Palmer weaves folktales and magical realism in her moving debut ... This will stick with readers." —Publishers Weekly

"This uneven but promising debut tells a family fable that rides on its well-developed protagonists." —Kirkus Reviews

"The long and winding name of this assertive debut matches the magnitude of the stories within, which draw on folklore to capture the dynamic between two sisters, Zora and Sasha Porter. Their mother's illness and their father's violence has fractured their relationship, but their bond is reforged as an old family secret—and a surrounding cache of remarkable tales—roars to the surface." —Elle

"At once mischievous and warm, Soraya Palmer's voice will bewitch you from the very first page, leading you through the complexities of sisterhood and motherhood, belonging and loss. The Human Origins of Beatrice Porter and Other Essential Ghosts illuminates the transformative power of storytelling itself, and reminds you that the most powerful and potent family stories are as cursed as they are nourishing." —Mina Seçkin, author of The Four Humors

"Playful and deft, Palmer's debut novel spans the brownstones of Brooklyn to the shores of Jamaica and Trinidad, and Tobago. This is a tale that honors the complicated love between immigrant families, the unbreakable bonds of sisterhood, and, above all, the infinite power of storytelling: to haunt, heal, and conjure entire universes into existence." —Daphne Palasi Andreades, author of Brown Girls

"Prismatic and dazzling, Palmer's debut entrances with its stories-within-stories structure and loving portrayal of two sisters coming into their own power while grappling with family secrets and tales untold. Anansi and other folkloric figures and deities of their Jamaican Trinidadian heritage weave throughout the novel, transforming from teller to teller, from one generation to the next—at times haunting or healing, seductive or terrifying. Palmer's ever-rippling prose also shifts deftly—from magical to macabre, playful to tender, always with compassion for all." —Angela Mi Young Hur, author of Folklorn

This information about The Human Origins of Beatrice Porter and Other Essential Ghosts was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

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Author Information

Soraya Palmer

Soraya Palmer is a Flatbush-born-and-raised writer and licensed social worker who advocates for survivors of gender-based violence who are facing criminal charges related to their abuse. She has been awarded a residency at Blue Mountain Center and interviewed for her work against police brutality, gentrification, and violence in The New York Times and BuzzFeed News. She lives in New York.

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