Purple Blues
by Esther O'Neale
LitFire Publishing

"I never told you this but I’ve been gathering purple things just for you. Believe it or not, I’m writing this note with a purple pen."

O’Neale grew up in the Caribbean island of Grenada, and, in her poems and short stories in this collection, that cultural environment informs the author’s craft. First and foremost, O’Neale is a storyteller. One story recalls a group of young boys and girls in their free-faring youth, swinging from a coconut branch over the riverbank, as well as childhood innocence in playing hide and seek. Then there is the tale of the young girl who, more than anything, is interested in books, even just looking at the pictures, as she’s not old enough to make sense of the words. She pretends to be sick to avoid going with the family to church when the “forbidden” book detailing human male and female anatomy is snuck from the stack of other books, daring to capture the young child’s rapt interest.

Also included are a series of letters, including a humorous letter to the editor, as well as a touching letter addressed to the author’s estranged daughter written in purple ink, her favorite color. In addition, there is a nice sampling of poems. More serious work is also presented, including an impassioned plea for racial equality and detailing events during the country’s political revolution.

O’Neale’s writing keeps the reader engaged, with thoughtful and often understated, humorous little tidbits of life in Grenada. One gets a real sense of the Caribbean sensibility and culture, including the local colloquialisms and figures of speech. The author’s use of humor seems to arrive at times when it is least expected, and, as such, makes for an enjoyable read. Rather like a smorgasbord of treats, this is the kind of book where one can skip around at leisure to any page, taking in the motley array of poems, letters, and short-short stories. There is much here to enjoy.

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