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Redemption in Indigo by Karen Lord

Redemption in IndigoI heard about this book through David Hebblethwaite who rated it very highly indeed. I read his review and decided it was definitely for me. I am very interested in fables and fairy tales and love a good retelling or re-imagining. Redemption in Indigo begins with a Senegalese folk tale, then takes the story much further creating something new and exciting.

Paama and Ansige are the mismatched couple at the heart of the tale. Ansige is a foolish man, tragically unworthy of his wife. They ought to be better suited; Paama is an amazing cook and Ansige truly loves to eat. But his devotion to his belly is so overwhelming as to be all-consuming. His gluttony is symptomatic of his character, so is compounded by other vices:

'arrogance complicated by indolent stupidity, lust for comfort, ire when thwarted, avarice in all his business dealings, and a strange conviction that always, somehow, there was some undeserving person who had more food than he did.'

Paama runs away from her unsatisfactory marriage, back to her family, where she manages to stay hidden until the tracker Kwame is assigned the case. Ansige makes his undignified way to be reunited with his wife, only to embarrass himself at every turn. Finally he flees, bested by the trickster spirits that delight in tormenting him. What is clear is that tricksters can only succeed if people are willing to give in to their suggestions. Paama is almost impervious to their influence, and it is this that makes her the ideal candidate to look after the Chaos Stick.

The Chaos Stick has the power to alter the world; it has been confiscated from the Indigo Lord and is entrusted to the grounded Paama. No sooner is she rid of one irritant in her life than the Indigo Lord turns up to try and wrest the stick back from her. It cannot be taken by force so he takes Paama on a journey showing the consequences of wielding the stick, and the hard choices that must be made on behalf of humanity. It is a soul-searching encounter, often brutal and without respite. Her desire for a peaceful life seems an increasingly distant possibility, but she is not one to shirk responsibility. Her inner strength and calm are what mark her out as special.

I love the way the book shifts between the spirit and real world; the boundaries between the two are very fluid and permeable. I found it is very easy to get caught up in this unusual tale. It is told in a very straightforward style, which is a good contrast with the supernatural nature of the story. I was rooting for Paama, she deserves some happiness to compensate for her trials. She has an accepting nature, as the narrator says she may be too passive for some. For me, she is a hero. She does fight, she just judges when doing so will have success. She also has goals and desires, she simply has to do her duty first. She is admirable and good but no sucker. I was won over by her, and by this splendid book.


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