As if coming of age isn’t already one of the toughest transitions a girl has to make, Tilla’s experiencing it in a far off country, under threat of a hurricane. Tilla and her little sister are spending the summer with their father in Jamaica. Tilla’s hoping to forge a closer relationship with him during her stay, but she’s got a lot to learn about a man who regularly leaves behind the family who loves him.
To her confusion, the locals speak a heavy Patois, a language she can barely understand. And, she’s exhilarated by her feelings for the local boys, but her inexperience is causing her to make mistakes. Her body is changing and her emotions are overwhelming. Rather than having trusted female friends and family she can turn to for help with what she’s going through, Tilla’s constantly at odds with nearly every woman around her. Over and over, she careens headlong into destructive situations, frequently resulting in angry confrontations.
The author calls Hurricane Summer “my love letter to the island of Jamaica”. Indeed, there’s a lot to love about the island country, from its exotic fruits and coffees growing right at one’s fingertips, to breathtaking waterfalls and wild forests filled with mystery and excitement. But, Jamaica is also a troubled soul, regularly battered by storms, unable to truly nurture its people. Through Tilla’s eyes, we see the pain of friends and family turning against her with displays of vindictiveness, judgment, sexism, and even racism.
The story moves quickly, leaving the reader breathless and constantly hungry to learn more. As secrets are revealed, the action rushes forward nearly as fast as Gustav, the hurricane that’s heading right towards Jamaica.
This debut novel by Asha Bromfield clearly comes from the heart. While the writing is rather gushy in places, that’s not a true hindrance to an emotional adventure. I did find the repetitive use of the phrase “kissing her/his teeth” a bit annoying after a while, but I reminded myself that the characters would probably use this facial expression often in their culture.