As narrator, and a rather egocentric one at that, Stella Payne dominates a story characterized more by her thoughts than by her actions. She is the object of both reader sympathy and authorial irony, an educated woman with two master’s degrees from prestigious institutions who still tries to talk to her sisters and friends as if she were a girl from “the ’hood,” with obscenities, bad grammar, street slang, and parallel lists unconnected by commas. She is a morass of contradictions: wealthy but driven by images of impoverished slaves and ghetto life, successful but taking no pleasure in her success, attractive and athletic but undergoing a midlife crisis she denies. She sympathizes with the Jamaican poor, but her instinct is quickly to bury herself in icy designer water. Her sexual behavior is contradictory as well: She purchases skimpy bikinis and flimsy gowns and wears no panties to attract male attention on her vacation, but she flees the hotel pajama party when the other guests start stripping.
All the novel’s other characters are seen through Stella’s eyes. Thus, her son is described as the best son in the world, knowing when to make an entrance or exit and accepting all that she does as the behavior of the best mom in the world. Winston, similarly, is the sexiest man in Jamaica, tall and handsome, with hot lips that burn for her; he is only ten years older than her son but has the desires and moves of what Stella calls a “real” man....
(The entire section is 457 words.)