The beauty of Naomi Jackson’s debut novel, The Star Side of Bird Hill, lives in the wise lyricism she brings to her prose.
Dionne, 16, and her younger sister Phaedra, 10, are spending the summer with their grandmother, Hyacinth, in Barbados. Their mother, April, back in Brooklyn, is struggling with depression. She is a mother who cannot mother her children who so very much need her.
As the prose unfolds, we learn how Dionne has been forced into the role of caretaker of her younger sister but in Bird Hill, under the watchful eye of her grandmother, she is forced to remember what it is like to be a child. She and Phaedra must contend with a new world, an estranged father who unexpectedly appears, and what it means to come of age.
Throughout, Jackson creates a deeply immersive reading experience. The people and place of Bird Hill are palpable. And then there are the marvelous descriptions. Take for example, this description of Donna, a young woman who lives in the eponymous Bird Hill, one of the novel’s protagonists: “She wore her body like a mistake she hoped to one day be forgiven for.” Oh, this is a novel you can fall all the way in to and never want to climb out of.