A Trini tale like no other!
The Repenters speaks to the pestering demons that drag us through a living hell. Amid the carnage, we must find meaning. We must find redemption. In this unapologetic and wilful stab at our conscience, Kevin Jared Hosein unveils an existential tapestry of depravity and violence where humanity is beaten down.
Hosien is the quintessential griot and artist of boundless range. In dizzying guile he transforms a house of orphans and clergy into a facsimile of the world around us. Like it or not, we, too, are orphans unhinged, lonesome, pugilistic, duplicitous, repressed, and vulgar. St Asteria, the home of the protagonist, Jordan, and the rest of 'actors' is our world unmasked.
Delivered with a relentless, driving cadence, we are sucked into a world of devilish intrigue. From the opening salvo, we are pulled into a vortex of pain. Yes, ruthless thieves and a serial batterer result in double homicide and two orphaned kids Jordan and Rey. And we later learn that Jeannie's mother "crawl outta the broken wreck and right into bed with a man who end up choppin her head off with a cutlass". Just to glimpse the future of driving, take this system for a spin.St Asteria offered a respite, but for a moment in the scheme of things. Jordan hit the nail on the head: "All of we were keeping reality one step behind and it was going to stab us at some point ... . And the hour would come when we woulda have to wake up ... . The Sisters would have to let us go one day and a batch of new puppies would come in and replace us."
We read that when Rico and Quenton went to St Asteria, it "was like an asteroid hit Earth," [and] Sister Mother wasn't lying when she say that they suffer a double dose of original sin."
Rico proves the most obdurate, combative, and impervious to reason. He challenges authority on every turn, none more so than in one vividly indelible scene when he was about to be punished by Bulldog for destroying Jordan's property. "He hustled to unbuckle his pants, letting his trousers fall to his ankles, displaying his white drawers. He then pull his drawers down to his knees, his bare bottom and big balls hanging for everyone to see. He didn't have to do this it was his way of saying f k you."
We identify with Rico's rage and recalcitrance. His humanity and sensitivity are not really dead. They are caged by a carapace of his making. This is his way of surviving. "If you wanted to know the disastrous shambles of your past, St Asteria waited for you," we learn. But could this home, managed by nuns, melt the icy-cold bosom of its inhabitants?
Only two years old when his parents are murdered, Jordan is still void of emotion. "They tell me that I could be repressing memories bout the day that if you open up my brain, you will find the sorrow swimming in some knot of nerves in there ... . The talks and the therapy wasn't worth jack shot either. It ain't have no cut to heal if the knife never break the skin."
But he finds emotional shelter in Sister Maya Romany, or Mouse as she is affectionately called by his peers. A square peg in a round hole, she, too, finds comfort in Jordan. But this healthy relationship is unceremoniously severed when Sister Romany is transferred. Jordan was gutted; his blood is put on ice. Again. "I felt like somebody had died and I didn't get enough time with them. There was so many things I still had to talk bout."
And in a wrenching analogy, Jordan, pummelled by a school bully, compares himself to an abused dog in the neighbourhood. "I was this dog, I telling you. Its eyes big and brown, sulkin in the sun, chain to a post, scrambling for shade under a thorny midden of cast-iron and bicycle parts. Ashamed of its mange, retreating from every face ..."
We follow the children's path to maturity and are very present when their raging hormones carve out twisted fantasies and idiosyncrasies. Through this tortuous passage of time, we cannot help but laugh out. The wry humour proves a bellyful.
The removal of Sister Kitty for statutory rape is no laughing matter, though. It ushers in a new chapter at St Asteria that unfortunately, follows in similar vein.
One orphan jumps ship, his whereabouts unknown. Another is added. And she proves a handful. When one resident says, "I ain't gon be surprised to find out that lil jammette bring disease up in here," we get the picture.
And when Jordan, St Asteria's most sympathetic figure future, is added to the list of runaways, the intrigue deepens. He encounters a new world, a new breed of bad in the trenches of Port-of-Spain. You lose reason and conscience in this Darwinian existence. How would Jordan fare?
The future is not privy to anyone, so with bated breath we wait for the curtain to fall on this burdensome journey that no one signed up for.
And like Hosein's repenters, we are ever locked in an inexorable battle for survival in a world where very little is guaranteed. In the throes of desperation, our faith is tested. Little Jordan is a believer. "No matter how bad things get, I say God is watching over me." Somehow, though, an earlier remark of his lingers, and lingers: "I know the people who say 'God is good' is the ones who God is good to, or those wishing that God was good to them."
Feedback: email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @glenvilleashby. The Repenters by Kevin Jared Hosein (c) 2016. Publisher: Peepal Tree, UK. ISBN: 13:9781845233310. Available at Amazon. Ratings: Essential