Beyond the Limbo Silence

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

In 1963 Sarah Edgehill, a young woman from Trinidad, is recruited by a priest to attend an unaccredited Catholic woman’s college in Wisconsin. She retains her Trinidadian heritage in the form of her mojo bag, her belief in the Warao god Orehu, and her awareness of the madness in her family. Sara meets other West Indian students: Courtney, intent on preserving her identity and cynical about “fitting in” to the white culture, and Angela, a “survivor” who relates well with the white students. Initially, Sara chooses Angela’s policy of assimilation, but when Angela is betrayed by her white friends, Sara turns to Courtney, whose views more closely reflect Sara’s own experiences with Americans who stereotype her.

Sara’s growing awareness of her racial past is deepened when she meets Sam Maxwell, a militant African American who insists that she try to understand the struggle for civil rights in the South. She falls in love with Sam, and when she becomes pregnant, Courtney helps her, with the aid of some West Indian medicine, with a secret abortion. Sara also discovers that the college has recruited West Indian students to integrate the school without having to admit African American students whose presence might offend alumnae.

Sam, who is not aware of her pregnancy, leaves for Mississippi to help in the Civil Rights movement; and when some of the militants are missing, Sara uses a West Indian ceremony to gain a vision of where the missing men are. At the end of the novel Sara suffers a nervous breakdown, but the missing men are found.