Title: This One Sky Day
Writer: Leone Ross
Publishing House: Faber & Faber
Date of Publication: April 15th 2021
Rating: 5 stars
‘’When people die alone, without proper burial rites, the carcass wandered for years, rudderless, rotting and shrinking. They had all seen these ghosts, rebuilding their bodies with bits of rubbish, hanging on, half-maddened. People who died alone: heart attack, stroke, old age, sleep-and-dream- and-dead. Fall and lick your head on a rock. Poverty. Murder. Suicide. Drowning. People whispered behind their hands. All of them dead of the same thing, you know. Loneliness.’’
In a land called Popisho, magic co-exists with the inhabitants. It is a land of beauty, of dreams, of love. It is a land of fear caused by those in power who mistreat the indigent, persecute them, murder them. It is a land of the sea and the sky, it is a land of the wisdom of the Obeah women, it is the land of the vision shared between lovers driven apart by prejudice. Within a day, we see the islanders’ lives being altered, their magic a blessing and a curse. We see women and men in love, we see mysterious graffiti exposing the hypocrisy and the sins of a tyrant. The whole world can be contained within a day, within a place. Well, Popisho is an island that contains the entire universe and the depths of the human soul.
Now, let me tell you about one of the most beautiful, poignant and extraordinary books you’ll ever read.
Also, can we pause for a moment and admire the sheer beauty of this book?
Leone Ross writes about a community where people are gifted with the cors, a special kind of magic. Changing the colour of things, healing the body and the soul, having five hearts, growing wings, detecting lies, speaking to cats, touching people’s souls with your cooking, having houses that alter themselves according to their own will. This is Magical Realism at its finest presented in incredibly beautiful, magical, sensual writing.
‘’Boxes of fireworks – she remembered them filling her childhood at every occasion she could think of, gods, where had the Popisho fireworks gone? Mad swirls of silver-blue lightning and crimson stars. A whole sky of melting yellow moons that trickled into their hair and faces and turned into caramel. A firework whale – she’d seen a real one in the ocean once, but so far away – the firework dove through the trees above their heads, blowing fire-water. The men sending the fireworks up seemed so happy and smelled like sugar water and burning. Her children – her daughters would have loved holding her hands and watching fireworks.
Purple- black crows, perched on the shelf above her head, on the brink of flight.’’
The essence of Caribbean culture, the vast tradition, the unique spirit. So poetically depicted and used to perfection to develop and communicate poignant themes. The role of the Obeah women, the complications of belonging to an island community, homophobia, discrimination and violence against the rightful owners of the land, sexual objectification and abuse, patriarchy, lack of opportunities, mistreatment of all kinds, racism. But there is also love and a firm belief in the power of truth, there is the joy of womanhood, the pleasure of sex and food. Nothing is idyllic and nothing is all doom. This is life and it will speak to you.
There are so many reasons that made me fall in love with this novel from the very first pages. First of all, the intriguing, mystical characters. Every single one of them is masterfully developed. It is so difficult to create a cast with such scope without secondary (or even main) characters that are, shall we say, not very interesting. Leone Ross succeeds. And this is a frightful understatement. 30+ characters and you’ll love them or hate them but they will be right there, next to you, all alive and loud and fascinating. Romanza and Pilar, Anise and Xavier. Their relationships are breathtaking. Poetry. Then we have the Dead Islands, haunting and heart-breaking. We have superb dialogue, and a super striking scene that is shocking and raw and lyrical. You have never read anything like it…
Leone Ross’s exquisite novel demands your unwavering attention. You have to give it your all and it will be worth every second. This book is cinnamon and sugar and coffee and sumptuous fruit. It is wise like a woman, ferocious like a hurricane, sweet and bitter like the love between two lovers. It is flesh and spirit. A loud song and a lullaby. And it is perfect.
‘’Popisho dreams for one strange hour. Every woman, man and child under the clouded sun, shivering in the sweet wind spreading across the land. A hunting mosquito made a stroops sound and scurried away, convinced everyone was dead.
Except for the indigent. They stretch, and blink and look around themselves, watching the red fruit spread, bubbling up through cracks in the ground, sprouting in host trees, breeding from nowhere. They gather together in the Dead Islands flats watching the toy warehouse, drawn by the violent trembling of its blue roof. Physalis brims out of its windows and pours down the walls, spewing juice. They know it as the fruit of the dead, picked for graves.’’