Amerindian peoples of Guyana, Aruka River/Guyana, Book Cover Art & Design, Former Catholic Nun, Guyana’s northwest rain forest region, High School Art Teacher, Mabaruma/Guyana, Patriarchal Catholic Church, Predatory Catholic Priests, Symbolism of the Circle, Symbolism of the Raven, The Twisted Circle: A Novel by Rosaliene Bacchus
When I left the convent in December 1977, my career as an art and geography high school teacher smashed against the boulders defending Guyana’s coastline. Broken and lost, I was set adrift—without purpose or direction for my return to secular life. Inspiration for my creative artistic expression vanished with the prevailing winds. Never to return…until now.
On completion of my second novel, The Twisted Circle, I had contacted two artists I knew about designing my front cover. Both declined to take on the project. Book cover design was not part of their expertise. In 2019, I considered contracting the services of a book cover designer on Fivver.com. Then something peculiar happened during the early months of the COVID-19 lockdown. Amid the doldrums of anxiety and uncertainty, inspiration for taking on the project myself surfaced like a bubble from the ocean floor. Our subconscious mind works in mysterious ways.
Inspired by real events, The Twisted Circle tells the story of two religious women, Guyanese Sister Barbara Lovell and American Sister Frances Adler, torn apart by obsession and entitlement. Within the confines of the community’s Santa Cruz convent, isolated in Guyana’s northwest rain forest region, they are ensnared in a twisted circle of deceit. The symbiotic relationship between the nuns and predatory priests is brought into the light. The Forest Spirits guard dark secrets. Raven knows.
When I began work on the book cover design in May 2020, I focused on depicting four major elements of the novel: the red eye in the sky, the tropical rain forest, the church, and the raven. The all-seeing red eye in the sky relates to the painting of a twisted circle—from which the novel gets its name—done by Amerindian Raven Mendonza. He is the thirteen-year-old son of a Carib shaman and student at the high school where Barbara teaches art and geography and Frances is the biology teacher. The drawing below is my rendition of his watercolor painting, using crayons and Sharpie markers.
The twisted circle is an aberration for Barbara. She believes that “God’s love was like a circle with no breaks, no beginning, and no end, protecting her from the evils of the world.” (The Twisted Circle, p.30) The predatory priests within the church have corrupted that protection.
The dense rain forest landscape of Guyana’s northwest region is a composite view of the setting for the novel. At the time (1979-1980), most of the region’s population of over 18,000 inhabitants were Amerindians—Arawak, Carib, and Warrau—who lived in over thirty isolated villages along the banks of the rivers. The Aruka River, washing the banks of Santa Cruz (fictitious name) where the convent and presbytery are located, snakes through the landscape. The descending Red Road in the forefront, taken from the top of the Santa Cruz hill, connects the Amerindian village with the government township in Mabaruma where the high school is located.
The church, occupying a central position, is my rendition of what was then the most prominent and oldest Catholic Church in the region. The Christian Church played a vital role in the Christianization of the indigenous populations during the colonization of the region.
To indigenous peoples, the raven, depicted on the mid-right of the design, escaped the darkness of the cosmos to bring light to the world. Other tribes see the raven as a trickster or shapeshifter that delights in upsetting things and spreading confusion. Those of you who have read my debut novel, Under the Tamarind Tree, know that my work is filled with symbolism and magical realism. In this regard, The Twisted Circle is no different.
On Thursday, July 8, I received my proofed copy of The Twisted Circle. My concern that the RGB photo colors of my front cover design would not convert well to the CMYK printer colors was unwarranted. The resulting darker green tones have created a more foreboding landscape. Despite all the care I took in aligning all the elements on the back cover, the barcode needs to be realigned. I will be busy this weekend as I continue to read through each page for any printing errors. The end of the production process is finally in sight. Stay tuned for updates.