Reviews for Popisho

Publishers Weekly
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Ross (Orange Laughter) draws on her Jamaican ancestry for a vibrant story of sensual characters and awe-inspiring, sometimes hilarious magic (or, as it’s known on the ferocious island chain of Popisho, “cors”). In this small fictional country, each person is born with a special cors (“A gift, nah? Yes. From the gods: a thing so inexpressibly your own,” Ross writes). Xavier Redchoose is divinely chosen to cook each person a perfect, individualized meal; Anise Latibeaudearre, Xavier’s long-lost love, is a healer; Romanza, son of the governor who exiled him for being gay, lives in a tree on the Dead Islands and can detect lies; Sonteine, the governor’s daughter, is the only woman yet to receive her cors. Xavier, on the anniversary of his wife’s death, is tasked to prepare a special meal for Sonteine’s upcoming wedding. Xavier, however, detests such elitism: he prepares meals at random, not according to privilege. As the governor’s corruption becomes more evident, the land itself revolts, sending the people of Popisho into odd, disorienting chaos, intertwining the lives of many and exposing a fermenting class revolution. Though the novel suffers from long, laborious exposition, Ross’s joyous imagining of a peoples’ power goes a long way to redeeming the narrative doldrums. This fresh take on magical realism delivers the goods. (Apr.)


Kirkus
Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Citizens of an island nation learn the ways that magic both blesses and curses their lives.In Popisho, every child is born with "cors": their own particular type of magical power. They become acolytes to those who can teach them skills or are assisted by obeah women, whose sole purpose was to curate magic. For Anise, her cors is ironic: She is a healer and diagnostician, though she cannot heal whatever causes her own babies to be stillborn. Xaviers cors is the ability to conjure any flavor into food with his hands; he is the countrys "macaenus," chosen by the gods to feed every citizen once, at the right time: "a man born to cook just for your individual appetite.He gave you what you needed, and that wasnt just food: it was inspiration. As the novel opens, Xavier has been tapped by Popishos governor to cook for his daughter, Sonteine, and her fiance on their wedding nightout of turn for a meal from the macaenus. Sonteine appears to have no cors while her twin brother, Romanza, has brought equal consternation to their powerful family by becoming acolyteand loverto an indigent man, a class of citizen who lives off the land. When a blast of magic affects all the islands women at the same time, it brings these characters together in new ways and changes everyones understanding of love and community. Ross, who lives in England and was raised in Jamaica, wheels kaleidoscopically through different points of view and backward and forward in time, offering readers a cross section of her invented country: its politics, religion, economy, food. Her novel carves out a place in the canon of memorable works of magical realism alongside Midnights Children and One Hundred Years of Solitude, but it's also totally itself, a raunchy, sly, colorful exploration of individual and collective identity. A novel that suffuses the senses. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

The wondrous archipelago of Popisho is a place of magic, from the extraordinary powers of its denizens to the rich tapestry woven from its vividly imagined landscape, traditions, and culture. Emulating the best practitioners of magical realism, Ross takes us beyond normal experience and convinces us of the otherworldly cooking powers of Xavier, the healing energy of Anise, and the lie-detecting abilities of Zaza. Sonteine Intiasar’s wedding day and Xavier’s conscription by the governor to provide a wedding feast set the plot into motion and it quickly expands to embrace many stories. Tears mix with laughter as we learn about death, infidelity, corruption, truth, desire, and love. The strangeness of the fate of the island women’s “pum-pums” (vaginas), Xavier’s addiction, the obeah women’s roles, and the veiled critique of colonialism are all elements within this expansive weaving, which is held together so effectively by Ross’ creative use of language and gripping characterizations. Passing reminders of the works of Gabriel Garcia Márquez and Alice Walker serve to establish Ross firmly in the global storytelling tradition of bold and beautiful narratives that demand much of the reader, but deliver the promised prize of a stirring literary experience.


Library Journal
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Popisho, an archipelago of unknown location or era is a magical place and one that defies description—much like Ross's book itself. The people of Popisho have their own magic, or cors. Cors takes many forms, with some residents developing incredible abilities, like the macaenus Xavier Redchoose, a once-in-a-generation master chef so gifted he is destined to make each resident of the islands of Popisho their own perfect meal, composed of ingredients he knows they need rather than want. Xavier is a complicated man, full of struggles and regrets. Much of the story is about his deciding and preparing (or not) a wedding feast for the daughter of Popisho's corrupt governor. The language of Popisho is a feast itself—richly descriptive, earthy, colorful, and unrestrained. VERDICT Xavier might be the main course of this tale, but there are many components here, including the role and power of women, broken government, poverty, prejudice, and judgment, all richly blended in an unforgettable work of magical realism by Ross (Come Let Us Sing Anyway).—Shaunna E. Hunter, Hampden-Sydney Coll. Lib., VA


Kirkus
Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Citizens of an island nation learn the ways that magic both blesses and curses their lives. In Popisho, every child is born with "cors": their own particular type of magical power. They become acolytes to those who can teach them skills or are assisted by obeah women, whose “sole purpose was to curate magic.” For Anise, her cors is ironic: She is a healer and diagnostician, though she cannot heal whatever causes her own babies to be stillborn. Xavier’s cors is the ability to conjure any flavor into food with his hands; he is the country’s "macaenus," chosen by the gods to feed every citizen once, at the right time: "a man born to cook just for your individual appetite….He gave you what you needed, and that wasn’t just food: it was inspiration.” As the novel opens, Xavier has been tapped by Popisho’s governor to cook for his daughter, Sonteine, and her fiance on their wedding night—out of turn for a meal from the macaenus. Sonteine appears to have no cors while her twin brother, Romanza, has brought equal consternation to their powerful family by becoming acolyte—and lover—to an “indigent” man, a class of citizen who lives off the land. When a blast of magic affects all the island’s women at the same time, it brings these characters together in new ways and changes everyone’s understanding of love and community. Ross, who lives in England and was raised in Jamaica, wheels kaleidoscopically through different points of view and backward and forward in time, offering readers a cross section of her invented country: its politics, religion, economy, food. Her novel carves out a place in the canon of memorable works of magical realism alongside Midnight’s Children and One Hundred Years of Solitude, but it's also totally itself, a raunchy, sly, colorful exploration of individual and collective identity. A novel that suffuses the senses. Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

The wondrous archipelago of Popisho is a place of magic, from the extraordinary powers of its denizens to the rich tapestry woven from its vividly imagined landscape, traditions, and culture. Emulating the best practitioners of magical realism, Ross takes us beyond normal experience and convinces us of the otherworldly cooking powers of Xavier, the healing energy of Anise, and the lie-detecting abilities of Zaza. Sonteine Intiasar’s wedding day and Xavier’s conscription by the governor to provide a wedding feast set the plot into motion and it quickly expands to embrace many stories. Tears mix with laughter as we learn about death, infidelity, corruption, truth, desire, and love. The strangeness of the fate of the island women’s “pum-pums” (vaginas), Xavier’s addiction, the obeah women’s roles, and the veiled critique of colonialism are all elements within this expansive weaving, which is held together so effectively by Ross’ creative use of language and gripping characterizations. Passing reminders of the works of Gabriel Garcia Márquez and Alice Walker serve to establish Ross firmly in the global storytelling tradition of bold and beautiful narratives that demand much of the reader, but deliver the promised prize of a stirring literary experience.

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