The Roving Tree is the debut novel for Haitian American Elsie Augastave. At the age of five, the book’s main character is Iris Odys is adopted by a white American couple. Iris’ mother, Hagathe agreed to the adoption in hopes that Iris would have a better life than she did.
Very early in the book Iris struggles with her identity and her place as an adoptee. A big theme in the book revolves around cultural legacy. Initially Iris resists embracing her Haitian culture but ultimately finds herself when she begins to reconnect to it. Like an outsider, she authentically approaches the Haitian practice and belief in vodou with resistance, skepticism and curiosity. I appreciated the historical references sprinkled throughout the book. Particularly some aspects of Haitian history during the era of Papa Doc and the Tonton Macoutes where they wreaked havoc on their fellow Haitians.
I’m beginning to see a trend in the Caribbean books that I’ve read thus far. Not For Everyday Use, The Roving Tree and an upcoming post for The Dead Yard. They all explore slavery and colonization. Both of which have long-lasting effects on the various Caribbean countries in the form of social injustices, classism, poverty or political turmoil.
Iris travels the world and through her travels she embarks on a special mission – a journey of discovery. The Roving Tree is a wonderful novel. Storytelling at its best and a must read for any lover of Caribbean Literature.