Book Review by Trev Sue-A-Quan, Chinese in Guyana: Their Roots, Under the Tamarind Tree: A Novel by Rosaliene Bacchus
Under the Tamarind Tree is a story of outsider influences. Richard Cheong, the main character, finds himself influenced by attitudes and events beyond his control. There is an outside child in the family – a boy whose very existence causes a divide between family members. Some are filled with resentment that this male child could be receiving financial benefits and privileges that are traditionally retained within a nuclear family. The animosity among some siblings leads to actions of a life-threatening nature. Richard himself perpetuates some of the conflicts by tenuously holding on to the glorious tradition of fathering a son of his own. With this objective entrenched in his mind, his wife Gloria gives birth to a fourth child but he dies at childbirth and this results in considerable friction within his family.
Through their ancestries, Richard and Gloria carry the customs and religious beliefs from five of the six peoples that constitute the country of Guyana. These diverse tenets lead to decisions by individuals that are difficult for even their closest loved ones to accept. A child’s wish to change religion brings intolerance from parents. The mother bearing an out-of-wedlock child is rejected by her family, while the sacredness of marriage is questioned when a partner feels that true love for an outsider overrules the stigma of adultery.
Adding to the contradictions among family members, the Cheongs find themselves caught in a greater conflict arising from the political changes leading to the country’s independence from Britain. The leaders of the political parties rally support based on racial and economic interests. Their influences result in some serious racial clashes between the people of African and East Indian heritage, representing the vast majority of the population. Even friends and family members of the Cheongs are instigators or perpetrators of violence, as well as being victims. Although standing as outsiders, Britain, as the presiding colonial power, and the United States, as the regional superpower, bring pressure to influence the direction that an independent Guyana would take, with determination that it should not become a country with a communist ideology.
Through these multiple influences, Richard and Gloria Cheong are challenged by both their individual set of values and the unfolding events that affect their family and business affairs. Under the Tamarind Tree weaves an intricate account of human interactions based on a personal, family-based, religious and national themes and is one with a uniquely Guyanese flavor.
Trev Sue-A-Quan was born in Georgetown, Guyana and attended Queen’s College. In 1969 he gained his Ph.D. degree in Chemical Engineering at the University of Birmingham, England. Besides his engineering career he has researched historical events related to Chinese immigration to Guyana. Based on his findings he has written three books describing the history of the Chinese Guyanese, covering their initial arrival as indentured laborers in the mid-19th century, their adaptation as residents in the new land and the experiences of their descendants as migrants to other countries. Trev now resides in Vancouver, Canada.
Learn More: Chinese in Guyana: Their Roots
Dear Reader, my debut novel, Under the Tamarind Tree, is now available at Rosaliene’s Store on Lulu.com and other book retailers at Amazon, BAM! Book-A-Million, Barnes and Noble, Book Depository, and Indie Bound.
Learn more about Under the Tamarind Tree at Rosaliene’s writer’s website.