Volcano, by Yvonne Weekes
I couldn’t put this down. Beautifully written and wrought with an overwhelming sadness, Weekes’ memoir about Soufriere Hills, a dormant volcano on the Caribbean island of Montserrat which roared to life in 1995, packs much into few pages.
If you’re looking for a technical accounting of the events of the destruction of Montserrat, this is not for you. If you’re looking to try to understand what it must have been like to be there and how it affected those who lived there, then this is what you’re looking for. This is a painful walk—so unimaginable it almost feels like fiction—through how the volcano destroyed the lives of so many. Through Weekes’ eyes, we watch a world, and a way of life, die.
Similarly, though, this is also a character/conflict/crisis/change story; we watch a woman who loses her identity and all she holds dear find her inner strength—and herself—again. It’s anything but an inconsequential memoir; it’s a moment-to-moment chronicle of her inner conflict from the day the mountain woke up until the day she was forced to leave.
Perhaps most powerful is the rendering of how this tragedy impacted her beyond those terrible months; her description of a post-eruption break-up is nothing short of stunning: “…When it ends I have terrible nightmares. The flames are once again rolling down the hills. A deep black mud is covering up all my life’s bricks. All my lavender dreams are on fire. I am more bereft than ever. The loss of him is so great that…I actually hear my heart splintering” (p. 102). Poems she wrote throughout the crisis pepper the manuscript, but they are seamlessly integrated, not feeling as though a random poem was stuck in there “just because.”
I was not expecting, when I read this book, to come away so grateful for all that I have, and so full of respect for anyone who has the strength to face such adversity and survive better for it; reading this truly changed my perspective on life. If you are looking for an intense—but brief—read, this is for you.
A few articles I like about Montserrat-Soufriere Hills
“Montserrat’s Unexpected Life,” February 2016, The New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/02/04/magazine/07mag-voyages-montserrat.html?_r=0
“Soufriere Hills Volcano,” March 2013, The Atlantic: http://www.theatlantic.com/photo/2013/05/soufriere-hills-volcano/100509/
“Soufriere Hills Volcano” on Photovolcania.com examines each major event in the latest series of eruptions. Awesome photos, maps, and gets pretty technical with detail. Eruption enthusiasts will enjoy this: http://www.photovolcanica.com/VolcanoInfo/Soufriere%20Hills/Soufriere%20Hills.html
Posted on July 21, 2016, in Reviews and tagged Blue Latitudes: Caribbean Writers anthology, destruction of city of Plymouth, Montserrat, Soufriere Hills, Volcano memoir, Yvonne Weekes. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.