Redemption in Indigo by Karen Lord – review

Redemption in Indigo by Karen Lord is a fable, complete with narration by an all knowing story teller. The story is based on African mythology and tells the story of Paama, an escapee of an unhappy marriage who returns to her parent’s village. Her talents as a chef are prodigious and her husband, an incorrigible glutton and a general all round fool, follows her to try and compel her return.

At the same time all this is happening, the spirits of this world (the djombi or undying ones) have stripped one of their more powerful brethren of the power of chaos, and gifted that power to Paama. The main thread of the story chronicles the effort of the spirit to recover his power from Paama and Paama’s reaction to having the power of chaos at her command.

The style of the novel was interesting and it was a quick read, with the story moving along at a good pace. The writing is lovely, but I must admit I didn’t feel a great degree of connection with any of the characters, so I found myself admiring the book at an intellectual level, but not really caring about the outcome.

I don’t know anything about African folklore, so I found the exploration of the world of the djombi fascinating. The complex interactions between the various spirits that was hinted at through the book were tantalising, and I would have been very interested in hearing more about that side of the world.

I get the sense that there might have been more layers of meaning in the novel than I am giving it credit for. Certainly there was a strong sense of characters, both human and djombi, learning lessons, rehabilitating and reconciling. To be honest I’m not a huge fan of being beaten over the head with morality – fortunately the lessons were weaved into the story with enough skill that I wasn’t completely thrown out of the narrative. Still, the story was driven more by an exploration of characters than a strong plot. This tendency, combined with my lack of emotional connection with the characters, was enough to dampen my enthusiasm for the novel.

I read this novel as a result of it being the subject of one of my favourite podcasts, The Writer and the Critic, this month (January 2012).

I also reviewed this book on Goodreads. View all my reviews.


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This work by Mark Webb is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Australia License.