- Virginia Johnson
From Harvey River: A Memoir of My Mother and Her Island, by Lorna Goodison, is a lyric examination of past generations living in the cityscapes and countryside of Jamaica. Ms. Goodison looks at her family’s strengths and strayings with loving, wise eyes.
The” fabulous Harvey girls,” of which the author’s mother Doris was one, were born into a well-enough-off family who were hugely respected in their community. Doris had a strong mother and father as well as grandparents—black and white—who influenced her mightily, and brothers and sisters who reacted very differently to the changes and temptations of the first half of the 20th century.
To read this book is to be welcomed to other times and places. The author, Doris’ daughter, Lorna, did not grow up near Harvey River. Her childhood was spent in far less idyllic Kingston where her family had to make its own identity and find different treasures—in Lorna’s case, a strong education. She went on to become a college professor and award-winning poet and writer.
Ms. Goodison relates a dozen stories in one with gentle Creole speech rhythms. She recreates Harvey River’s sense of calm and Kingston’s contrariness, the sweet and the bitter, and how a family was and remains—at least in memory.