Saturday, May 7, 2011

The Book of Obeah, a novel by Sandra Carrington-Smith

Published by O Books
Reviewed for Review The Book

Obeah. The ancient religion from Africa. Obeah, brought to the New World and surrounding islands during the slave trade. To my mind, this book vibrates with mysticism, pulsing blood, and the rhythm of drumming. The Book of Obeah becomes a character of the story, even while no one knows where it is or even if it exists. But wait. This is the past, but the past will shortly catch up with the present and portents of the future. We, the readers, don't realize this yet.

There is a Preface which, though a Choctaw proclamation rather than African, is very meaningful in the basic principles of both religions, for want of a better word. It is worth reading this "Translation of Choctaw tribal shaman proclamation; Bayou-Lacombe, LA; Circa 1878" before you begin the story

The Prologue sent a chill down my spine, the terror was palpable whether based on reality or the mind of an unstable mother. What an attention-grabber! This is crucial information and sets the scene that will answer many questions both in the story's future, and the near future of the main character, Melody Bennett. She is about to have her world turned inside-out. Melody has never heard of Obeah. She was born and raised in North Carolina.

Melody's precious Grandmama has died, and left her a letter with some very strange requests. She has instructed her to go to a specific bayou of New Orleans and scatter her ashes there. But first, she must find a childhood friend of Grandmama’s Marie Devereux in the Louisiana bayou. A very daunting task, so many questions with no answers. Why New Orleans? Didn't they always live in North Carolina?. Melody had a very close bond with Grandmama and feels an urgency to carry out her last wishes.

Sandra Carrington-Smith weaves a magical tale of good and evil, spells and magic, protection and love. It is truly here where the story began many years before. The charactizations are remarkable, the wonders of New Orleans and the bayous beautifully descriptive. Even the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina plays a role in this scenario. After taking in the sights of the city Melody knows she must begin her quest. She meets many locals on the way who are only too willing to help her in her search for Marie. But a tarot reader has reacted badly in the midst of reading her cards and gives her a warning of extreme danger. Is it real? Melody is not sure what to think. She also encounters a malicious character who threatens her to give back what belongs to him. Melody has no idea what he is talking about.

Hiring a guide to take her into the bayous, she has another offers that leaves her wondering who to trust, and what in the world could she possibly have that everyone seems to want? Grandmama knew her granddaughter had abilities unknown to Melody yet, but she knew in making this request her instincts would be true. Melody learns she must trust and feels a connection with Old Paul, who takes her to meet Marie. Here she will learn some of the meaning of Obeah, but she still thinks of it as Voodoo and Hoodoo. Surprised to learn that Grandmama had lived in the bayous as a child, she was equally surprised that Marie was her best friend in those long ago days. Preparations by Marie begin in best Obeah fashion but with a sense of urgency; protection spells, the blessing of the ashes, briefing Melody on her part, and explaining the role of nature in the practice of Obeah, while Old Paul returns with many supplies for the ritual.

The author has done extensive study of Obeah, Voodoo, Hoodoo, Louisiana bayous, and the general feel of both bayou and city. She has brought all of it alive in this book. Mysteries surround them, danger is lurking, but where is it coming from? Why do so many people Melody meets and talks to make clandestine meetings and phone calls as soon as she leaves? Who are these people really? This is a process of learning, a process of believing, of feeling the power. The story builds up faster all through the novel. The creeping, living bayou and the old city and its people are all atmospheric. There are dangers all around, and some can not be clearly seen or recognized.

The talented Ms. Carrington-Smith brings all the loose ends, past and present, and binds them into a bewitching story, but also a classic story of greed. An exciting novel with many twists, this book will surely satisfy mystery fans and paranormal/mystical fans. The descriptive nature of the book brings us right into the heart of a wonderful old city and the people of the bayous. I thoroughly enjoyed it all the way through with no desire to take a break before finishing it. I will certainly be interested in reading another novel by this author.

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