River Sing Me Home is an impressive debut novel by Eleanor Shearer, a mixed-race writer of Caribbean descent. It is 1834, and the law says her people are free. But for Rachel, freedom means finding her five children: Mary Grace, Micah, Thomas Augustus, Cherry Jane and Mercy. These five of her eleven children survived, only to be sold to other plantations. From sunrise to sunset, through the cane fields of Barbados to British Guiana to Trinidad, Rachel searches for her children. It is only once she is reunited with her children that she can find true peace and respite.
River Sing Me Home is an extraordinarily written novel. Shearer brings Rachel’s story to the page with compassion, tenderness and lyrical writing. Shearer’s aim for her novel was to bring to life a story about the Caribbean in the aftermath of slavery - a topic that, as a society, we have limited knowledge and understanding of. Shearer did an excellent job of executing this. The novel educates us about how slavery was able to persist in the Caribbean long after it was abolished. The main reason for this was the sugar trade and the sheer amount of money it produced for the colonies. Throughout the novel, you can clearly see the extent and depth of Shearer’s research into this topic. It was also great to see how realistic she kept the story, despite the depressing nature of this realism. There were no fairytale reunions for Rachel and her children, but the bitter reality of reconnecting after years of trauma and separation.
Furthermore, it was wonderful to see how Shearer transformed a novel with such an oppressive subject matter into a story of hope. There is this pervasive sense of hopefulness that permeates the story in seeing how far a mother will go for her children. Moreover, it was also beautiful to see the multitude of characters in the novel help each other in navigating emancipation. Early on in the novel, Rachel receives help from Mama B. Mama B is a strong believer in not accepting help unless you are willing to give it back to others when your time comes. As Rachel gains strength, she gives help to those she meets on her journey, bringing the kindness she once received full circle.
Overall, River Sing Me Home is a stunning testament to a mother’s love: a tale of fearlessness and redemption.
River Sing Me Home will be available to purchase from 19th January.