Book Review: Love After Love by Ingrid Persaud

Love After Love, Ingrid Persaud

Faber & Faber, 2020

Fiction | LGBTQ+ | Mental Illness | Read Caribbean

What a heartbreaker! Love After Love is a novel about complex family relationships – both blood family and the families we find – and, of course, love. It’s set in Trinidad with three main characters who have an equal share in the reader’s heartbreak. This novel is one that will stay with me for some time and one I started recommending to my friends as soon as I finished reading it.

Content warnings for the book and the following review: abuse, mental illness, self-harm, homophobia, grief.

A few years after the death of her abusive husband, Betty is looking for a lodger and Mr Chetan - a gentle, quiet man from work - moves in with her and her son Solo. Over the years, the three become a close-knit family until Solo discovers a secret about his mother and moves, undocumented, to New York. Solo’s mental health deteriorates to the extreme as he is increasingly isolated, struggling to get his papers in the US and traumatised by his discovery. Back in Trinidad, Betty and Mr Chetan’s relationship becomes more distant as Mr Chetan moves out to date and explore his gay identity more: as much as he can in a homophobic Trinidad where homosexuality was only recently decriminalised. Betty is left alone in the house; she’s desperate for her son to return and begins questioning her Christian religion, convinced by a new friend to worship Kali – a Hindu Tantric goddess.

Persaud makes us feel deeply for each of the protagonists and as each has problems and deep traumas of their own, Love After Love provides a trio of heartbreaks. This is a well-rounded novel meaning that the plot, characters, pace and language were equally good. It’s gripping and easy to read making it a absorbing and perfect for overcoming a reading slump.

Indo-Trinidadian culture is trickled through the book, for example through dialect and food descriptions, and really adds to the sense of place and character. Persaud’s approach to dialogue worked really well for the book too, with dialogue demarcated by indentation and spacing rather than speech marks.

I really enjoyed the book and it was a fast read but it did hang heavy over me for the few days in which I was reading it due to the themes and deep connection with the characters, especially Betty who I found to be super lovable. Love After Love cemented the value of reading literature from around the world as it taught me so much I didn’t know about LGBTQ experience in Trinidad (I didn’t know that it was only recently decriminalised) and religion on the island. This is why I love reading diversely as I can learn and enjoy a good story at the same time. I highly recommend adding Love After Love to your #readcaribbean reading list.

Love After Love is now available in paperback - you can order your copy online here.

Reviewed by Lauren - founder & curator at Destination Books

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