Gloria by Kerry Young

by Shivanee Ramlochan, Paper Based Blogger

Dear Paper Based Readers, as we continue to excitedly peruse the tremendous works from this year’s NGC Bocas Lit Fest, we turn our gaze to today’s selected novel: the second from British-based, Jamaican author, Kerry Young. Young’s debut novel, Pao, was released to critical acclaim, including a shortlist nod for last year’s Commonwealth Book Prize. As with its predecessor, Gloria charts the specific, compelling story of a Jamaican citizen’s struggle, embodying the multiplicity of life tales in an island whose motto resounds, “Out of Many, One People.”

Gloria flees the violent aftermath of her abuse-fraught country life, and heads for the uncertain, no lesser danger of bustling Kingston, where she tries valiantly to create a better, different existence for herself and her younger sister. She swiftly learns that the spectres of the past are not so easily left behind, and must contend with the weight of what lies behind her, as well as the daunting realities of her new world. It is a town that teems with vibrancy, set to the unsteady tattoo of a society learning to assert its own voice. Gloria does more than brush against the seediness of Kingston’s criminal underbelly; she is plunged into its recesses. Alongside this gritty series of revelations shines a distinct path for our protagonist, one that points towards self-empowerment, and, in so doing, grants Gloria the power to change the lives of other women, to reframe their worst stories, to offer them hope and strength.

Readers who delighted in Pao will rejoice to find the interlocking destinies of the novels’ two protagonists, yet this is far from the only recommendation I can offer in the name of reading Gloria. Young’s second novel is no less resonant and emotionally impacting than her first. In creating Gloria, she has given us a heroine worth rooting for: one who is unafraid to navigate her own fate, one who mirrors the evolving heartbeat of an entire nation.