The Whale House and Other Stories
by Sharon Millar
“There is a sweet and bitter magic here that Millar performs via the bodies of the characters. Women have turmeric eyes, men are too beautiful to die, children dance the cocoa and unborn babies are made born as baby sharks.”
—Tiphanie Yanique, Author
A pathologist is asked to lie about a boy killed on government orders; a sister tries to make peace with the parents of the white American girl her brother has murdered; a gangster makes his posthumous lament: Trinidad in all its social tumult is ever present in these stories, but so too are the lives of those with private griefs: a woman mourning the still-birth of her baby; a young mother with cancer facing her mortality. Millar’s characters come intensely alive at points of crisis, of existential threat.
The stories in this collection range wide: across different ethnic communities; across rural and urban settings; across the moneyed elite (and illicit new wealth) and the poor scrabbling for survival; locals and expatriates; the certainties of rational knowledge and the mysteries of the unseen and the uncanny. Different locations in Trinidad are brought to the reader through a precise and sensuous mapping of the country’s fauna and flora.
Characters thread their way through different stories, but what ties the collection together is Sharon Millar’s distinctively personal voice: cool, unsentimental and empathetic. If irony is the only way to inscribe contemporary Trinidad, there is also room for the possibility of redemption.
“Sharon Millar has written a collection where ‘hard back woman give talk’ and ‘big man stand up and cry.’ After reading it you may do the same. Millar has rooted herself into a Caribbean literature where language crackles and no ethnicity, gender, economic status or race is off limits. The collection is one of handsome boys with bullets in their backs and of high-class women with babies in their bellies.
There is a sweet and bitter magic here that Millar performs via the bodies of the characters. Women have turmeric eyes, men are too beautiful to die, children dance the cocoa and unborn babies are made born as baby sharks. This book made me catch my breath. It made me shake my head and sigh. The characters barb and the language sings.”
—Tiphanie Yanique, author of Land of Love and Drowning
“The stories in this debut collection by the winner of the 2013 Commonwealth Short Story Prize, offer a searing social commentary on the class, race and gender divisions on an island where too many are chasing the same rainbow of security and happiness.
You will enjoy reading this book because of the insight it provides on a still unknown part of the world, and because these stories of love and disappointment transcend boundaries.
The Whale House gives us a universal commentary on what it means to be human and flawed. Read more...”
—Reshma Ruia, Words of Colour
“The Whale House is a well crafted portrait of a culture that is likely unfamiliar, as well as an exploration of personal and national identity, the uncanny yet familiar, and feminist themes that are forceful without ever being presumptuous. Overall, it is a well-balanced, clever collection which is pleasant to read, in no small part due to Millar’s expert ability to build-up atmosphere. Read more...”
—Jérôme Cooper, Dundee University Review of the Arts
“Maternity and nature are inextricably bound. They follow their own seasons of conceiving, gestation, birth: they are their own portents of fecundity and its absence, and are unassailable forces. In her debut collection of short fiction, Sharon Millar writes into the heart of these queenly provinces, piercing complex ecosystems to reveal truths in storytelling that both hurt and heal. Read more...”
—Shivanee Ramlochan, T&T Guardian Sunday Arts Review