Land of Love and Drowning by Tiphanie Yanique was a book club read for me. I'm not sure if I would have picked this up on my own, but I enjoyed it overall. This review does have spoilers below.
Taking place in the Caribbean, Land of Love and Drowning followed three generations of Bradshaws beginning when their home in the ocean officially became the United States Virgin Islands. Orphaned sisters Eeona and Anette were very different; beautiful Eeona was self-assured of her family’s importance and acted the part while Anette was more of a free spirit. This book mainly followed their relationship and how the Bradshaw family secrets affected their family for generations - secrets of jealousy, incest, love affairs, and island magic.
I liked the insights to Virgin Islands history; I don’t remember ever learning much about this period of time in school. Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres so a novel that takes me to a new place is generally a win.
I did enjoy the author’s writing style though I would’ve liked more physical descriptions of the islands. Anette’s chapters were written in her spoken vernacular; I got used to it after a while but I know some people can’t handle reading poor grammar. Thankfully, that's not the whole book and Eeona’s prim-and-proper manner matched the language in her sections.
The magical realism of the story dominated just enough to help make the story unique. I liked that, but I also wished it was just a little more fleshed out. I wasn’t sure what exactly I was supposed to believe at times: was Rebekah’s hoof a straight-up hoof? What exactly were the Duene people up to? So much was presented as legend yet accepted as fact.
Even though incest was a frequent topic, funnily enough the most disturbing part to me was Eeona’s time spent living with a man on another island (he had an interesting connection to her). Why was strong Eeona letting herself be controlled? What was the draw to this man in the first place? The whole thing seemed a little out of character for Eeona and I was rooting for her to get up and leave. Of course, the incest/abuse/pedophilia of Captain Bradshaw did make me very uncomfortable when it was included. So much of the incest’s impact on the family could have been avoided. Why didn’t Eeona tell Anette what she knew about their family history? Anette and Jacob could’ve had that close relationship without the shudder-inducing ick factor. I liked them together on a platonic level, but I guess without their relationship the book wouldn’t have been what it was.
This isn't a very plot driven novel, rather it's a meandering family story covering generations and major life events. It’s the sort of novel where I’d say read it only if the summary sounds extremely interesting to you...otherwise you might get bored halfway through. For me, it was different enough that I enjoyed it and rate it 3 out of 5.