Coconut trees. Carnival. Rum and coke. To many outsiders, these and other sunny images are all they know about life in the Caribbean. However, if you want to learn how the locals truly live and experience the dark and often harrowing truths that lurk behind the idyllic imagery of Caribbean culture, then come visit the town of Pleasantview.
Come during election season, and see how one candidate sets out to slaughter endangered turtles – just for fun. Or come on the day the other candidate beats his “outside-woman,” so badly she ends up losing their baby. Then come on the night of the political rally, where this grieving woman exacts a very public revenge. Stay a while, and see how this single event has a trajectory far beyond the lives of the immediate actors, with often tragic and heartbreaking consequences.
Written in a remarkable combination of Standard English and Trinidad Creole, Plesantview showcases the entrenched political, racial, and class dichotomies of life in Trinidad: the generosity (yet cruelty) of the average Trini; the sense of optimism (and yet, despair) which permeates everyday interaction; and the musicality of Caribbean creole (kriol) expression that masks an ingrained and frequently violent patriarchy.
Merging the vibrancy and darkness of recent Caribbean writers such as Ingrid Persaud and Claire Adam with the linguistic experimentation of Marlon James’s A Brief History of Seven Killings. Pleasantview is a landmark work in international fiction.
Celeste Mohammed forces you to travel with her characters. You see their lives and their world as they do, on foot. You walk in her characters' shoes. Mohammed is a skillful storyteller, so the journey educates and exhilarates you, Mohammed invents a clear, crackling town/district, Pleasantview, a bustling, hustling side of Trinidad, where few of us have ever been, or will ever go. Pleasantview forces us to look at how we behave when uncontained, when unconstrained, when our lack of morality unmoors us. * A.J. Verdelle, author of The Good Negress * These stories are full of unexpected twists and connections and infused with humor. They herald the arrival of an intriguing new voice. * Ingrid Persaud * Pungent and searing, this is a refreshing portrait of island life told in stories that are crafted with candor and movement. Bursting with wisdom and humanity, it's hard to believe that this book is Mohammed's debut. * Candice Iloh * The residents of the fictional Trinidadian town of Pleasantview are divided by mistrust and racial and ethnic tension, but they are forever bound to each other by their shared histories and secrets. From Omar who is forced to confront his boss's corruption, to Miss Ivy in her employer's hand-me-down fur coat outside the police station, Mohammed's characters demand to be acknowledged. In this beautifully written debut, Mohammed gives voice to the silenced and the overlooked. Pleasantview sizzles with originality and heart and introduces a fearless new writer. * Hester Kaplan, author of Unravished * Pleasantview offers the reader a sharp and fearless view of the dark underbelly of life in Trinidad, filled with unforgettable characters that we meet in do-or-die situations. Marked by male violence, political underhandedness, and economic desperation, Pleasantview also demonstrates Mohammed's remarkable range as a writer as she moves seamlessly from callousness to tenderness, humor to sorrow, lyricism to minimalism in a work that lingers in the reader's mind long after the final page. This is a thrilling debut. * Laurie Foos, author of Ex Utero and The Blue Girl * As James Joyce did for Dublin, Celeste Mohammed holds up a polished mirror to the inhabitants of the fictitious Trinidadian town of Pleasantview and dares the reader to take an unflinching look at a multi-ethnic society that is vibrant and joyous but riddled with corruption and the exploitation of women, the young, and the vulnerable. Mohammed's writing is smart, funny, and enlivened by everyday Trinidadian vernacular, creating rich and lively portraits of a range of Trini characters. A formidable debut, Pleasantview's razor-sharp observations of misogyny and the abuse of power are leavened by humor and a pitch-perfect ear for the language of human foibles. * Tony Eprile, author of The Persistence of Memory * In one of Chekhov's stories, a character says that every happy man should have someone who taps at his door with a little hammer, reminding him that there are unhappy people in the world. Reading Celeste Mohammed's novel-in-stories makes me think of that magical little tap-except that the door opens not to a vision of unhappiness, but to a world crammed with life that you never knew existed. * Claire Adam, author of The Golden Child * The residents of Pleasantview come to vivid light in this extraordinary debut from Celeste Mohammed. Each slice of life in this Trinidadian village cuts clean to the bone, revealing how people are both complicated and complicit in the way we break each other's hearts and bodies. From the riveting opening to the aching end, Mohammed's gift for giving voice to each character is glorious. * Tracey Baptiste *
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