Beautifully written story with a 1980’s setting in Barbados


The Star Side of Bird Hill: A Novel - Naomi Jackson Groves

This poignant coming of age story combines lyrical writing with a realistic earthiness, occasionally it’s slightly too earthy for my tastes, and it features two sisters, Phaedra age 10 and Dionne age 16, whose plans for the summer are upended when their barely functioning mother sends them a world away, from Brooklyn to Barbados, to live with their grandmother, a midwife and herbalist, skills that have been passed down in their family since the times of enslavement. Caribbean culture and the sisters’ new lives on Bird Hill are beautifully and believable evoked, the characters are almost achingly real, and the story held me more and more in thrall as I went on.


In reading reviews, one thing that surprised me is some of the reactions to the cover art. The author chose the image from a painting titled “Too Much Makeup”  because the wary girl it depicts reminds her of 16-year-old Dionne, who continued to wear makeup in Barbados as a kind of armor and a connection to the life she was forced away from in Brooklyn, but a number of reviewers on Amazon and other sites have made a point of saying they hate the it. I’m generally partial to all things colorful and I like the cover art, especially since the author’s description helped me see Dionne in it. What do you think?

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