The Book of Colors
Nineteen-year-old Yslea moves from Jimmy’s row house to Rose’s soon after discovering her pregnancy. Although they are neighbors, Yslea would rather care for the old dying woman than be around a guy who has a porn website business that involves video taping another row house neighbor, Layla. Unfortunately, Layla’s little daughter, Ambrosia, is in the same room as the salacious activities. Surprisingly, Ambrosia seems to be at peace in her own worldspending her time quietly rocking while looking at her cardboard book of colors. Rose seems to be at peace, too, knowing that death is around the bend. Surrounded by all these strange situations, Yslea learns a thing or two about herself, the world, and God, especially when miracles take place.
Raymond Barfield’s debut novel focuses on life choices amid impoverished settings. Barfield’s first person narrative features a young woman who is surrounded by an interesting collection of characters. While they each have their views on life, death, and spiritual mattersparticularly God and the Catholic Church, Barfield’s zeroes in on Yslea’s persistent thought processes. Unique to Barfield’s plot is his writing style, which has a bit of lilting poetic feel to his text. Emphasizing Yslea’s rambling qualities, Barfield style is laced with a flurry of similes and elongated sentences that are periodically punctuated with a string of coordinating conjunctions.
Barfield surrounds Yslea with a combined foiled and static cast. While pushing Yslea to see herself for who she is and what she can achieve, they are also making their own life choices. Indeed, Yslea has had her fair share of hardships. Yet her positive outlook is inspiring as she views small and seemingly nonessential things in life with immense interest. Great examples are her raccoon bone collection, the stained-glass window she makes out of broken beer bottles for Rose, the attention she gives to her favorite bookRobinson Crusoe, and how she deals with “the troll under the bridge.”
Building slowly but progressively and replete with unexpected everything, The Book of Colors is nothing less than purely original and brilliantly written.