Paule Marshall’s sprawling novel Daughters presents another of her conflicted characters, the thirtyish urban professional Ursa Mackenzie, who is straddling two worlds: New York, where she lives and works, and the fictional Caribbean island of Triunion, where she spent her first fourteen years. Not only does she embody the clash of two cultures and the weight of history, but on a personal level she must find her own way. Choosing direct involvement over statistics, Ursa has just resigned her well-paid job with a consumer research group in order to assist the African American candidate for mayor in a nearby city. Her father, Primus Mackenzie, a powerful Triunion politician known to everyone as “the PM,” disapproves of her new career, but her liberal African American mother Estelle is pleased.
Ursa shares an uneasy connection with her parents and a failing relationship with a former lover, but she maintains a much stronger bond with her best friend and guide, Viney Daniels, an assistant vice president at Metropolitan Life and the mother of an exemplary son. Viney warns Ursa, “You can’t hear your own self, your own voice trying to tell you which way to go, what to do with your life.” A distorted version of their close friendship is mirrored by Astral Forde, the Creole manager of the PM’s faded hotel for retired tourists, and her impoverished friend Malvern, who never manages to rise.
In fact, Ursa frequently views her life...
(The entire section is 485 words.)