“[I]f one believes–or at a minimum has a bit of curiosity–regarding the connection between the mind, body, and spirit, specifically as it relates to traumatic experiences, the theory of spiritual retribution is difficult to ignore.” C. P. Patrick
There is a commonly held belief the tropical storms and hurricanes that form off the coast of West Africa are not natural disasters, but rather they are retaliation by restless spirits impacted by one of the darkest chapters of world history—the trans–Atlantic slave trade.
Awiti’s destiny was forever changed the day the slave raiders arrived at her village. She made a life-altering decision with the hope of being reunited with her family, only to discover her effort was in vain. For centuries, her sadness raged within the winds and rain, resulting in tropical storms that devastated the South. But there is more to Awiti than creating hurricanes, as those who have encountered her love and wrath will attest. The truth is, there is so much more.
Follow her story from mid-fifteenth-century Africa to twenty-first-century New Orleans in this historical fantasy that will leave you questioning the impact of the trans–Atlantic slave trade on the physical and spiritual realms.
I have been drawn to study the history of the trans-Atlantic slave trade since college, when I read Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: An American Slave in conjunction with Toni Morrison’s novel Beloved. My pursuits on the topic ranged from the academic to the emotional, and are driven by something I cannot name. From my first novel, Receive Me Falling, to my current, untitled work in progress, the division between races and class recurs in my themes, even when I do not deliberately set out to address it.
I met C. P. Patrick at a book signing, and when we began speaking about her writing, she mentioned her novel The Truth about Awiti. Never having heard the theory that hurricanes were born of restless slave spirits, I was immediately drawn to the legend, and the fact that before each major hurricane recounted in her book (including the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 in the Florida Keys, featured in my novel, Hemingway’s Girl), a grave crime against an African slave, an African-American, or indigenous American had been committed. Because I am also drawn to mysticism and spirituality, I connected with the idea.
The Truth about Awiti is a difficult book to read. I had to put it down repeatedly because it so unflinchingly portrays those grave crimes against black humanity that I needed time to process and to grieve. There were many stories I never knew, and these people and places and horrors must never be forgotten.
In terms of the writing, I was struck by how perfectly Patrick embodies the voice of each new character. It was as if I could hear their languages, dialects, and voices in my ear. Patrick is able to capture the immediacy and potency of oral tradition in narrative form, which makes for an intimate reading experience. It’s like sitting at a fire listening to stories from the mouths of survivors.
The Truth about Awiti is one of the best books I have read in 2016. Book clubs should consider adding it to their rosters. The discussion the novel stimulates will be profound. C. P. Patrick has a forever-fan in me, and I cannot wait to read her next book. I give The Truth about Awiti my highest recommendation.