Official Book Synopsis
Set in Brooklyn, Cuba, and mostly Jamaica, The House of Plain Truth traces one older woman’s decision to pursue and hold onto what has deep meaning to her—in her blood and in her bones. What does it look like to uphold the wishes of those who have departed the world and why is it that the most unlikely characters crystallize what matters most?
When Pearline leaves her life in Brooklyn and returns to her childhood home of Jamaica to care for her dying father, Rupert, she leaves her grown daughter to cope, overwhelmed, with her granddaughters back in Brooklyn. Yet Pearline feels called to return to her childhood home and soon dives deep into her family of origin.
Ostracized by her sisters for moving to America decades earlier and only coming “home” due to their father’s imminent passing, Pearline must assert her own familial identity as she strives to hold onto the family’s home over her sisters’ objections. Always lurking in the back of Pearline’s mind is her family’s traumatic past in Cuba, where Rupert had sought a better life and where four of Pearline’s siblings remained when the rest of the family left for Jamaica, including one who was lost for good.
In lush, lyrical prose inspired by the author’s own family story, this novel explores the divided loyalties within a family, the true meaning of home, and what one woman has to sacrifice to get what she ultimately wants.
Before I even began reading The House of Plain Truth I was excited about the book. The book comes with a QR Code and link that lists various ways to engage with the book. The link includes receipes, playlists, maps and more.
As a history lover, I really appreciated the way the book integrates history into the characters experiences and choices. Not many stories talk about the Jamaican Cuban migration of the time; giving voice to people with similar experiences and family history.
Migration is another key theme in the book. The House of Plain Truth highlights some of the realities faced by those who leave their homeland for better opportunities. It also acknowledges what the children of those migrants born in another country lose growing up away from extended family and their homeland.
Familial bonds is the biggest theme in the book. I liked that it showed the complex dynamics of parent-child and sibling relationships. Which have been strained by migration, distance, generational differences, loyalty and secrets.
Reading this story gave me more capacity to be more empathetic of the decisions that my parents, grandparents, great grandparents or any of the elders in my family made. It’s easy to judge their decisions, however in the moment, they thought they were doing what was best based on where they were emotionally or based on the information they had.
In conclusion, The House of Plain Truth should be next on your reading list. It is a wonderful exploration of migration, family, and home.
About the Author
Jamaican-born Donna Hemans is the author of the novel River Woman and Tea by the Sea. Her fiction and non-fiction have appeared in numerous literary magazines, including Slice, Shenandoah, Electric Literature, Ms. Magazine and Crab Orchard Review. She received her undergraduate degree in English and Media Studies from Fordham University and an MFA from American University. She lives in Maryland and is the owner of DC Writers Room, a co-working studio for writers.