By: Lauren Francis-Sharma
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Publication Date: April 2014
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: May 2014
Lauren Francis-Sharma delivers an epic saga through the eyes and life of native Trinidadian, Marcia Garcia, that transcends the 1940s-1960s in her debut novel, Til the Well Runs Dry.
In the wide spot in the road of Blanchisseuse, Trinidad, Maria Garcia does all she is able to do to put food on the table for the nameless, young twin boys. Thankfully, her neighbor Carol Ann would care for them whenever Marcia needed to travel the equivalent of the other side of the world to Tunapuna, Trinidad. Marcia is a seamstress and an accomplished one at that—a talent that ran from her mother’s veins directly into Marcia’s hands. At barely sixteen, she is motherless (and fatherless) and the boys are the only family Marcia has left. Her responsibility of raising the boys was enough for Marcia to continue to put one foot in front of the other each day.
Mrs. Duncan was Marcia’s mother’s most faithful customer. Keeping clients like her happy was what kept food on Marcia’s table. Fate has a funny way of entering a person’s life. Such was the case the day Marcia was making her dress delivery to Mrs. Duncan. One of the most handsome boys—young man, actually, Marcia had ever seen happened to be at the Duncan house when she arrived. While the prospect of a life beyond the boys was far removed from possibility, Marcia couldn’t help but steal more than a glimpse of the polished specimen of Farouk Karam when she arrived with her delivery. Unbeknownst to Marcia, Farouk felt the same way once he witnessed her hypnotic beauty. As though destiny was on both their sides, their paths cross again and their lives together (or not-so-together) are delivered on a road that entails a journey of not only an abundance of heartache, but many unforeseen misfortunes in their lives together. When Farouk enlists the help of Tanty Gertrude who has a reputation of ‘dabbling in darker arts’ (which made voodoo pale in comparison), the outcome isn’t quite the original deal he had bargained for.
Lauren Francis-Sharma has accomplished a captivating story in her debut novel. Given the fact she is a child of Trinidadian immigrants, this writer has written what she knows. I have never been to Trinidad, but after reading the many descriptive passages devoted to the lay of the land and listened to the native dialogue she has devoted to each character of this intriguing island, I feel as though I’ve been there. Ms. Sharma paints beautiful imagery of the allure of the island such as a sky exploding with the majesty of color before the sun rests for another day. She immediately affirms the beauty by balancing the next scene with the whimsical and native dialect of her characters—'children' are ‘chil’ren’ and 'the' is ‘de.’ She describes savory native dishes of goat cheese and meat and mangos so delectably sweet, one can place themselves at the table set and savor the flavor as a direct result of how the scene was written. She touches upon the third world element of a country devoid of modern technologies and fast food restaurants; yet the simplicity is the essence of a silver lining of just being. Ms. Sharma’s voice is distinct throughout this story and she has paid admirable homage, heart and soul to this story because of her heritage. The only criticism I would offer would be the length of the story. While there is terrific pace and cadence for the most part, there were periods when I felt as though the story would drag because Ms. Sharma applied too much description before moving on to the next action. Overall, however, this truly is a beautifully written debut novel. Well done!
Quill says: One can almost hear the calypso of magical steel drums playing while navigating this heartfelt story of Trinidadian lifestyle.