In Praisesong for the Widow, Avey Johnson and two friends are in the midst of a Caribbean cruise, which her friends have urged upon her, when Avey suddenly feels that she cannot continue. Without explanation, she disembarks at Granada, knowing only that she must get back to her immaculate home in North White Plains, New York. Instead, she finds herself walking too far down the beach in the heat and seeks refuge in a small bar. Lebert Joseph, the lame and ancient owner, urges her to stay for an extra day to join the annual excursion to his native island of Carriacou. There, the Big Drum celebration is held to honor the Old Parents, the Long-time People: “Each year this time they does look for us to come and give them their remembrance.”
The novel reiterates Marshall’s concern with “the need for black people to make the psychological and spiritual journey back through their past.” On her journey, Avey recalls the hard but rewarding years with her husband, Jay, on Halsey Street in Brooklyn, before they moved to the respectability of White Plains. She remembers her childhood visits to her father’s great-aunt in South Carolina and the old woman’s thrilling story of Ibo Landing, of slaves who turned their backs on the New World and walked home across the sea. Lebert also reminds her of her heritage by pointedly asking her, “And what you is?” He does not mean American but rather wants to know her African tribal heritage.
(The entire section is 538 words.)