A transplanted child musing in her soft hybrid voice becomes almost woman as she takes in the sins and confusions of her family and surroundings—first in Guyana and then Timor. Though fraught with political intensity and intrigue, the Guyanese world is strangely affirming and life-changing. But Timor is profoundly disturbing, a spiritual and social exile. Shelagh Plunkett’s is a unique story, beautifully told.
—Linda Spalding, author of The Purchase, winner of the 2012 Governor General’s Prize for Fiction on Shelagh Plunkett’s The Water Here is Never Blue
What was a manuscript is now a book. The Water Here is Never Blue launched in Montreal on August 28 after an August 20 release date. What was the quiet, insular life of an author has become a little less so with my recent appearance on Canada AM where I “opened up about my life and explored the mystery of my father, who may have been a spy.” Next stop, October 1 at Munro’s Books in Victoria, B.C. and then back to Montreal for a Paragraphe Breakfast and Books event on October 6 .
In the meantime, Goodreads is offering another giveaway of 15 author review copies of The Water Here is Never Blue. The contest ends on September 27. Here’s the link. Good luck to everyone who enters!
From the water, out at sea and sitting in a boat that falls and rises with the waves, Kupang town looked as though it had been slapped, slapped hard enough to send the buildings toppling and off-kilter. Strung out along the shore, one end of town was higher, braced against the weight of leaning structures tumbling at it from the other end. In choppy water, that shoreline was seen in momentary flashes, glimpsed as the water rose and fell.
Life was like that too. Vivid moments hidden in the lull of boring everyday. Some, like flotsam, disconnected from their past and others like the warning spark of what’s to come.
—The Water Here is Never Blue
Last month, the twentieth anniversary of my father’s death passed. Whoosh, a puff of air, a whisper heard by some but not by many. A day, just one, a lovely day in June.
Sometimes these days creep up without my conscious knowing. I forget, or almost. I forget on the level of my everyday. But, then I realize my mood is shifting slowly into darkest navy blue and moments that are bright can’t hold their shine for long. That’s when I remember, oh yes, that day, that day again is here or coming or just passed.
Look, gyal. Look you, standin there and grinnin grinnin big. Your skin. You lookin like a ghost, nah. Your skin so white it hidin you.” I looked and I laughed too. I looked again. I stared, and then I knew that she was right. My shape was more a blank of space outlined by all the others. My edges in that photograph were defined by what was around me. My skin so white, my hair and eyes so pale, the ink dots barely there to fill in where I was.
—The Water Here is Never Blue
As an adolescent in Georgetown, going to an all-girls school, I wanted to fit in with my Guyana friends. I wanted to be Guyanese. At St. Rose’s high school, though, I was the only student among the 700 there who had blue eyes, blond hair, white skin. I was the easiest to spot each morning in assembly. I was 13 years old, naive and looking still just from my blue eyes out, not yet seeing myself from the other side of air. So, although I knew I was the only white kid in the school I was also unaware of how that really looked, what that meant, who that meant I was wrapped up in my pale pale skin. I hadn’t learned that what is all around us shapes the thing we are, marks our outer edges, give us definition.
They call Guyana the Land of Six Nations and my skin was right for one of those. I could be a Guyanese among my friends because of that list. And, I was. When I was told that I would stand with them, lined up to shake the hand of Tanzania’s president, Julius Nyerere, I was one of six, six nations of Guyana. And, for a while, I was very proud of that.
On the path to Kaieteur Falls, Guyana, my parents are surrounded by bromeliads.
Water of life. Inland, that water jammed up the land with every kind of life. Even the Rupununi savannah had its watery moments when flat grasslands turned, for awhile, to vast deceptive lakes. Jungles dripped dense, rain fell down and then steamed up, rivers flowed as wide as seas, and little golden frogs lived out their lives in puddles caught between the bromeliad’s leaves.
—The Water Here is Never Blue
On this summer day, in Montreal, the heat and humidity began high at dawn and thickened through the day. Just now, at 5:30, the weather broke in a way that reminds me of Guyana and of Timor too. It reminds me of every tropical place I have been when a monsoon hit.
On August 20, eight weeks from now, Penguin Canada will release my book, The Water Here is Never Blue. In the lead up to that date I’ll be blogging weekly about some of the book’s themes and imagery. My posts won’t be about the book, but they will reflect it, quote from it and give a taste of what’s to come on the 20th.
Water, secrets, fathers and daughters, belonging, travel and culture shock, death, colonialism, monkeys and departures are a few of the themes that run, like water, through the book and through my life.
PS Goodreads is giving away 10 copies of The Water Here is Never Blue between now and July 10. Click the link to request a copy. http://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/48063-the-water-here-is-never-blue-intrigue-and-lies-from-an-uncommon-childho
At the Georgetown seawall in 1974, where the water was never blue. Chris chases Suzy (a friend’s daughter) and I stand with Duffy who was with me In a Garden.
It’s Mashramani and in Georgetown the Guyanese are winin’ in the streets. Mash is a celebration of the Republic’s official birthday, February 23, 1970. These days the colours are all bright bright, costumes flash their feathers and spray glitter on the crowds, while the King and Queen sweat and sway majestic to the jump-up soca beat. But, back in 1975 when the Republic was still fresh, Guyana showed its sprankious spirit with whatever came to hand. Sometimes that meant being a Fat Cat with a dressed up donkey.