It’s been difficult for me to write about Redemption in Indigo. Karen Lord’s novel feels familiar and good in so many ways. It reminds me of the kinds of fairy tales and fables we’re told as children of normal but brave lives interrupted by magic, gods or other mystical beings hidden in sight, and important lessons drawn from their exchanges. But this familiarity, which is partially drawn from the brevity of the tale, was also a draw back for me. I wanted even more from each character, godly creature, and story than I was given.
Paama is a fairly normal woman, excepting her extraordinary talent for cooking. The tale begins with her having already left her husband, Ansige, who is absolutely not a normal man. He is a rather extraordinary fool and glutton. Paama only wants to escape the duty and humiliation that is hers as his wife and Ansige only wants his wife back to care and cook for him. Of course, Paama is not as normal as she seems and has attracted the attention of the djombi, or the undying ones, mystical beings that come to humans as the voices of insects or shadows of themselves. The djombi believe that Paama has the natural inclination to receive the gift of the Chaos Stick. The power of this stick is taken from another djombi, a creature who has become cynical and arrogant in the face of his own duties to the world and human kind. He is not happy about this stolen power.
The tale moves swiftly, as fables do. Each character we meet clearly contains depths and importance, even when we are not told very much about them, as folkloric characters do. Connections between characters and mystical beings are fun to guess at until we are given the explicit reasons for them, as fairy tales do. The adventure is not unsurprising but also not that surprising either. We meet both lesser djombi and humans who are able to assist Paama either with physical tools or cryptic messages. Her family is affected by the meddling of these creatures, but all fare rather well in the shake out. And ultimately, as Paama and the wrathful djombi who wants his power back come head to head, there is not enough time for their exchange, the good and bad, to develop with the kind of weight I felt the story asked me to buy into.
Ultimately, I did really love this tale. It was beautifully written and contained characters I liked and very rich settings. And so my hesitation with the work is simply that I wanted more, that it still felt a bit too shallow, as fables so often do. I do think the ending was so well done in how lovely it was all wrapped up, but that too would have been served by a deeper reach into the stories and characters.
The irony of my want for more, more, more is not lost on me, given Ansige’s selfish and gluttonous greed and maybe there is something in that as well. Despite my hesitation, I think this novel is well worth the read. It’s brevity means that even if you are left unsatisfied in some abstract way, you should still be happy with having read the tale.