This novel, which could be classified as fantasy, folk tale or fairy tale, is, according to one review, based on a Senegalese folk tale and set in Barbados/the Caribbean. Our unnamed storyteller describes a world featuring deserts, pastures, villages and towns, and most importantly, djombi. Djombi are undying spirits, capable of taking on different forms — human, insect, animal — influencing events, and changing memories. Redemption in Indigo is the story of a djombi suffering from burn out and a human who must teach him a lesson. The tale, which is sometimes comical and sometimes tragic, deals with the power of choice and the possibility of second chances.
Our human heroine is Paama, a woman who has been unhappily married for several years. Paama is a wonderful cook and longs to travel, but her husband Ansige is a foolish man whose number one vice is gluttony. He has no great appreciation for Paama’s skills; he simply requires vast quantities of food all day long.
Ansige was not an epicure, but a gourmand.
Paama has gone back to her village Makendha to live with her parents and younger sister Neila. For several years, Ansige leaves Paama alone, but one day he decides to go to his wife to bring her home. The story of his travels and of his antics in Makendha are quite comical. His gluttonous ways complicate the trip and get him into ridiculous and embarrassing situations in the village. Paama could have easily publicly humiliated her husband, but she is a compassionate woman, not hateful toward Ansige but also not in love with him. She seems to be able to sense when he is in trouble and finds ways to save face for him. Her sense of duty and ability to rise above the pettiness of those around her attracts the attention of a very powerful djombi and her assistant. For reasons unknown, this djombi has removed the power of chaos from a fellow djombi known as the Indigo Lord and has given that power to Paama in the form of a cooking stick. The Indigo Lord uses what powers he has left to track down chaos, but he cannot take it from Paama and she cannot give it to him unless she truly believes that he deserves to have it back. And so the Indigo Lord takes Paama on a journey, attempting to show her the onerous burden of chaos and her inability to handle such power.
The Indigo Lord’s story is a complicated one. At first, he comes across as cold, selfish, haughty, even evil. He uses any creatures and humans in his path to track down his power; he treats them like puppets to get what he desires. Once he sees that he cannot force Paama into giving him what he wants, he becomes more honest and vulnerable. Their journey reveals situations that the Indigo Lord faced and decisions he made, some of which Paama finds very troubling. In having to go through his decision-making process with Paama, the Indigo Lord finds himself troubled as well. He had once been the kind of djombi who worked to protect humans and improve their lot; time and exposure to human stupidity made him cynical and uncaring. Author Lord shows the reader that djombi are a lot like humans, capable of making poor choices and changing for the worse or the better. Lord’s descriptions of the various types of djombi and their functions are both informative and entertaining.
The ending of the tale was not quite what I expected although I did like it. The reader ponders questions of restitution, redemption and rehabilitation. For a folk tale dealing in spirits, it reveals a lot about humanity, its foibles, and the power of our choices.