Growing Up in Barbados
by Sereta Belgrave

"Times were really hard back then for Louise and her family."

Belgrave has chosen the exotic but troubled island of Barbados as the setting for her story of Louise who is growing up in extreme poverty and trying to make positive changes in her circumstances. Louise’s mother is a cane field worker who scrapes together the means to start a street hawking business. Louise is fathered by a white British overseer. Louise is beautiful from childhood, with light skin and smooth hair. By the time she is eleven she attracts her mother’s lover, a pedophile who slowly seduces the naïve child. Though Louise does well in school and attains excellent employment, her attitude towards men is so scarred by this devastating childhood encounter that she compulsively pursues relationships in which she offers sex in exchange for money and gifts. Several times she is impregnated by careless lovers and must have the pregnancies terminated, giving her a backlog of guilt. In her thirties, she finally meets a man who understands her and in whom she confides her past. He wishes to marry her, and they are able to live contentedly together until tragedy strikes.

Belgrave has organized her story chronologically, using footnoting and other citations not often used in fiction to highlight information about Barbados. Her recounting of the devastation of Hurricane Janet in 1955 is based on fact. What stands out in this book is her heroine’s determination to improve herself and live a worthy life despite the muddled past that continues to haunt her. Particularly poignant is Belgrave’s depiction of Louise’s guilt and sorrow at having to end unintended pregnancies with uncaring lovers, contrasting with her later desire, unfulfilled, to get pregnant when she is able at last to find steady, true love. Belgrave’s tale reveals life for poverty-stricken citizens of a picturesque island that seems like paradise for those who come only for short sojourns.

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