24 Nov / My Mother’s House by Francesca Momplaisir [in Booklist]
It opens with the mellifluous Dion Graham and ends with an always-appreciated who-read-whom at recording’s end. In between, the horror is unrelenting, yet the three narrators persist with tenacious dignity and grace. Graham enthralls as the titular “my mother’s house” – Kay Manman Mwen in Kreyòl – the Queens, New York home of Lucien and Marie-Ange, a once “compassionate and savvy young couple,” who initially provided a haven for fellow Haitian immigrants. Their needs, his help, feeds Lucien’s power as he transforms La Kay into a house of hidden torture chambers.
The house, calling itself La Kay, appoints itself witness and judge, plotting vengeance when it can bear Lucien’s depravity no more. The provocative casting of a female narrator – the impressive Karen Chilton – for Lucien’s sections becomes a rebellious, reclamatory act of giving voice to the countless women manipulated, hunted, tormented, and enslaved in the too-many decades Lucien has thrived. Janina Edwards achingly haunts as Sol, the sole prisoner allowed narrative agency, whose survival – and that of her basement-born son – is anything but guaranteed.
Debut novelist Francesca Momplaisir’s already unnerving nightmare on-the-page morphs into aural terror, most definitely not for the casual listener. Content warnings, yes: a chilling lesson in inhumanity – private and public both.