It's been ten years since Jamaica Kincaid’s last book, Mr. Potter--a span that could be, for both readers and author, an eternity or no time at all.
But as she shows in her mesmerizing new novel, See Now Then, time is occasionally amorphous.
Set in a small New England town, the story echoes autobiographical elements of Kincaid’s own life: A Caribbean-born writer and her musician husband are nearing the inevitable end of their marriage (she’s mired in domesticity; he fantasizes about her dead body). Like Kincaid herself, the ironically named Mrs. Sweet (she’s actually rather nasty) takes solace in art and gardening. Oh, and did we mention that she’s working on a book called See Now Then?
Kincaid’s prose is intentionally repetitive and nonchronological, creating a challenge for the reader that parallels the struggles and miscommunications faced by the characters.
Still, no matter how dense the language might get, every few pages something comes together (say, a revelation about an overgrown lawn patiently awaiting its “first mowing”) that is so insightful, you almost want to tattoo it onto your body--well, to the extent that you want to tattoo your body.
This is the reason you read Kincaid: for the spot-on intersection of pain, heart and sometimes even humor.