Under the Zaboca Tree
a novel by Glynis Guevara

Print: 978-1-77133-329-0
ePUB: 978-1-77133-330-6
PDF: 978-1-77133-332-0

180 Pages
June 14, 2017
New Fiction All Titles Novel Inanna Young Feminist Series


Under the Zaboca Tree a novel by Glynis Guevara

At ten, Melody Sparks, better known as Baby Girl, is excited to move to the tropical island of Trinidad with her single-parent dad, but she silently longs for her mother, a woman she can’t recall ever meeting and doesn’t have a photo of. She fits in to her new life in Paradise Lane quite well: she loves her school and makes new friends. However, her longing for blood family remains strong. But Baby Girl is suddenly and unexpectedly uprooted from her comfortable life in Paradise Lane by and forced to reside in Flat Hill Village, a depressed, crime-ridden community. She struggles to adjust to life in this village with the help of new friends, Arlie, a village activist and Colm, a young man who mentors her to write poetry. When Baby Girl witnesses a serious crime, her father insists she move in with relatives she doesn’t know very well, where she ultimately uncovers the truth about her mother. Under the Zaboca Tree is a contemporary coming of age novel that explores multiple issues including the challenges of being a motherless adolescent, searching for one’s identity, the unbreakable bonds of family, and the ability to adapt to difficult situations.

Under the Zaboca Tree

Glynis Guevara was born in Barataria, Trinidad. She holds a Bachelor of Laws (Hons.) degree from the University of London, England, and is a graduate of Humber School for Writers creative writing program. She was shortlisted for the Small Axe Literary short fiction prize in 2012 and was also a finalist for the inaugural Burt Award for Caribbean literature in 2014. She currently lives in Toronto where she works as an adult literacy and ESL instructor.

Under the Zaboca Tree by Glynis Guevara
reviewed by The Miramichi Reader - July 31, 2017

Under the Zaboca Tree (2017, Inanna Publications) is a Young Adult (YA) book that tells the story of Baby Girl (Melody) Sparks, and her trip to Trinidad and Tobago with her father Smokey (Nicholas) who has sole custody of her. They are leaving Canada to start life anew in Trinidad; her father had separated from her stepmother. Baby Girl has never known her mother and Smokey is not very forthcoming on past family history. Once back in Trinidad, there are many things new to Baby Girl: the island slang, food, new people and new friends to make. Then there is her father's new girlfriend Vena with whom they live with on Paradise Lane. A swift end to that relationship lands them in Flat Hill Village, a less than desirable area where the cycle of being surrounded by new people plus a high crime rate are unsettling to the young girl.

"Flat Hill Village, with its shabby yards, unruly trees and assortment of odd indiviuals, compared to Paradise Lane, with its regular hardworking folks and neatly kept trees and flower gardens decorating the front of each house, was hard for me to take in. I sat on the bed and stared at the walls, wishing I had the magical power to make my absent mother reappear. Just then a gecko about five inches long scurried from one edge of the ceiling to the next. I was too shell shocked to holler."

All throughout Under the Zaboca Tree, we feel Baby Girl's distress, confusion, loneliness and hurt as she gets moved from place to place, and yearns to have a mother like other children. While fortunate to have a father who has cared for her until this point, questions about why her birth mother has never contacted her remain a mystery. Then, one day, an accidental discovery of papers in the bottom of an old desk drawer leads her to confront her father for the truth. A delightful, four-star YA read that is insightful to life in Trinidad & Tobago as well as comprehending the stress transient parents can put on their kids as seen through a child's eyes.

     “I really want your life to turn out better than mine.” Dad
squeezed my hand. “When you’re all grown up, you can return
to Canada to live.”
     “I’m not, Dad.” I frowned. “I’m not going back there without
you ever.”
     “I swear I’ll never leave you. I promise I’ll do everything I
can to give you a much better life than I’ve had.” Dad’s fingers
circled my back.
     Moments later, Dad pulled a magazine from his pouch and
began to flip through its glossy pages.
     “Can we look at the family pictures?” I suddenly said, but
Dad continued flipping through the magazine, ignoring me
     “Pleeeease.” I made a face.
     “They’re in the overhead compartment.” He hesitated for a
moment before fishing out two crumpled brown envelopes from
his bag.“I used to enjoy looking at these pictures when I was a
boy.” He pressed both envelopes against his chest.
     “Dad,” I said, grinning, “you say the same thing every time
we look at them.”
     He handed me a stack of dog-eared photos from the envelope
on top. I examined a tattered picture of Dad and Howie, standing
under a sprawling tree with bunches of dangling, pear-shaped
green fruits. They were dressed in matching light-blue outfits,
almost the same colour as the sky behind them. “This was indeed
a special tree Mom used to rock us under when we were tots.”
     “What kind is it?”
     “It’s called avocado, but they’re sometimes called ‘zaboca’
in Trinidad.”
     “Zaboca’s a funny word.” I chuckled loudly, covering my
mouth with one hand.
     “Don’t you worry, I’m sure you’ll learn many more amusing
words after we get there.”

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