In her novel, If I Never Went Home, Ingrid Persaud tells the stories of two women searching to find their voices and a safe haven they can call home. Bea leaves her childhood home in Trinidad to attend college in Boston and to find breathing space away her family. Tina searches for a home after a tragic accident leaves her without one. These strong women struggle through years of overwhelming loss, betrayal and recovery until unexpectedly their lives cross. Through the stories of Bea and Tina, Persaud explores women’s realities including domestic abuse, gender-based rules, family secrets, and associated mental health issues. The women are fighters, overtime becoming self-authorized and choosing their own life paths.
I was given this novel as a gift while on vacation in the Caribbean. Although I was not in Trinidad it was fascinating to read dialogue that was at times written in a dialect similar to what I was hearing each day. The vivid descriptions of the culture, food and geography of the island provided a lush context for the two remarkable family sagas. The experience of Bea navigating the between the USA and Trinidad illustrates the cross-cultural intelligence and flexibility required of immigrants.
I read If I Never Went Home, after reading Home by Toni Morrison, which I had taken with me on vacation. The books are totally and dramatically different in writing style and setting. Yet each in it’s own way unpacks the psychological baggage of the main characters as they escape from and return to the home of their upbringing. Reading the two novels back-to-back lead me to consider the profound questions about home, that each of us must answer over our lifetimes. The most fundamental being: What and where is home?