novel, by a Canadian writer of Barbadian background, explores the
brutality of plantation life, not as it was experienced in the fields
but in the subtler cruelties inflicted on a worker named Mary, who, as a
girl, catches the manager's eye and then becomes his favored mistress
and the mother of his only son. Forced into a life of loveless "fooping"
but also one of material comfort and privilege, Mary is separated both
from her own people and from the white establishment, and spends decades
in her "home-prison" contemplating the "ritual and arrangement of life
on the Plantation." With an obvious affection for Caribbean cadence and
its rum-soaked asides, Clarke unfolds Mary's story through the
meandering statement she gives to the police after she has taken
gruesome revenge on her "master" using the hoe of the title, the very
tool that his attentions enabled her to drop.
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