This was probably my favorite read for the May issue of Historical Novels Review., the magazine of The Historical Novel Society. They also made it an “Editor’s Choice.”
In 1976, five-year-old Rita is ripped away from the only family she has ever known and is taken to Georgetown, Guyana, to live with her father, Jitty Miraj. A wild child, she surrounds herself with animals and books, and shares everything with her diary, a gift from her father. Her father becomes her world, and she forgets her past. When Doomsday comes, and she meets Jitty’s new wife Chandra, Rita is told that she is not good enough. Chandra is embarrassed of Rita’s African and Amerindian roots, her curly hair, and the fact that her parents weren’t married. Rita is quickly set off to the side. Then a chance to visit her mother’s family presents itself. Will Rita finally learn the truth her father will never tell? How did her mother die? This is the coming of age story of Rita Miraj, from five years old to adulthood.
This is an absolutely gorgeous, soul-touching book that I could not put down. We are immediately drawn into Rita’s life and grow up with her as she learns to cope with a weak but manipulative father and his empty promises. Words are her gift, and we are gifted with her poems and diary entries. Music, movies, and political/historical events of the 1970s and 1980s are relayed through Rita, Jitty, and flashbacks to Rita’s mother Cassie. The lush beauty, diverse wildlife, and rich history of the Pomeroon River area are described in vivid detail. Rita has a deeply moving and soul- changing moment on Shell Beach watching a turtle lay her eggs, and I was drawn in to her overwhelming wonder and joy. The evolution of Rita’s heart, mind, and goals as she grows and learns is so well captured here. This book was an unforgettable, magical joy to read. Highly recommend.
I received a free copy from Bookouture for Historical Novels Review. I also purchased a copy to support this amazing book. My opinions are my own.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sharon Maas was born in Georgetown, Guyana in 1951, and a sense of adventure has followed her around the world. In 1971 she spent a year backpacking around South America, followed by a few months with pioneering friends in the Guyana rainforest, followed by an overland trip to India, followed by a year in a Hindu Ashram.
She settled in Germany where she married, studied, worked, and raised children.
Officially retired, she continues to write from her new home in Ireland.
Her first novel was published by HarperCollins in 1999, followed by two more in 2001 and 2002. At present she has 10 published works with the digital publisher Bookouture.
She has one self-published work, a retelling of the magnificent Indian epic Mahabharata: a project of love which took her over 30 years to “get right”, written under the pen name S. Aruna.