Song of Soloman was my first Toni Morrison book. I had heard much praise for her writing and I wasn’t disappointed by her prose–it is beautifully lyrical! The characters are eclectic and interesting, as are their names (to name a few…Milkman, Pilate, Macon, First Corinthians–all with the surname “Dead”). A central theme of the novel is about the significance of names and knowing your history and where you come from. Admittedly, it took me until nearly the end of the book to get vested in some of the characters’ stories and I found much of the “work” of connecting the characters is left to the reader. As with many classics, it isn’t a light read, but it offered a unique voice and perspective to any other African-American stories I have read.
The idea of following the adventures of a Chinese-Canadian forensic account seems like a bit of a chore. And the fact that this novel was written by a white former journalist, who is a grandfather of seven made me even more skeptical. My misgivings were quickly dismissed as I dove into the intriguing world of Ava Lee, a poised, powerful, intelligent young woman, who specializes in hunting down and recovering massive debts. She works for an elderly “Uncle”, who may or may not have ties to the Chinese Triads. Again, the premise of the first book seems odd–$5 million dollars was stolen from a seafood company. There is a portion of an early chapter devoted to describing the ways the shrimp importing industry can cheat suppliers…it was amazingly compelling. And as Ava starts her search in affluent Hong Kong, I eagerly joined the journey. Everything seems like it just going to be a series of globe-trotting meetings until Ava eventually close to the end of the line in Guyana. Here she is without her usual resources and meets her match in the powerful and corrupt Captain Robbins. The last few chapters are tension-filled page turners as the seemingly unbeatable heroine gets into real danger.
To quote the Montreal Gazette: “When the central character looks like Lucy Liu, kicks like Jackie Chan, and has a travel budget like Donald Trump, the story is anything but boring…”
I’m looking forward to meeting Ava again in The Disciple of Las Vegas and also looking forward to meeting Ian Hamilton at St. Albert Public Library on October 20, 2014 for STARFest Readers Festival (www.starfest.ca)!