“She alone can safely wield the power that I shall take from our … former colleague.” The last two words rode on the breath of a regretful sigh.
“Will you really? I mean, to involve a human! Are you certain?”
“I am certain that Paama can wield it, and I am equally certain that he must not. Isn’t that enough?”
Another pause, then, “He is going to be very angry. He will try his utmost to get it back.”
The reply held a subtle glimmer of a smile. “That is indeed my hope.”
Paama’s husband is an embarrassment — an insatiable glutton who will do anything for more food. And Paama is a brilliant cook! Although you would think this a perfect combination, his greed became unbearable and she left him two years ago. Now he arrives at her village to persuade her to return home with him, but while he is staying with her family, his greed leads him to murder their livestock and ruin their crops. Paama’s adept handling of these crises draw the attention of the Djombi, the undying ones, who present her with a gift — the Chaos stick — a magic object with immense power. However, another djombi, with Indigo skin, believes that the stick is his and will do anything to get it, and his powers, back.
Redemption in Indigo is based on a Senegalese folk tale, and is written in the style of a storyteller speaking to a room of people. The conversational tone and witty asides disguise a story that grapples with some pretty weighty philosophical topics, but these always feel like a natural part of the narrative, not shoehorned in for the sake of it.
The main part of the book (and also my very favourite bit) follows Paama and the Indigo Lord as they travel together. The Indigo Lord, who is best described as the spirit of chance, is trying to get the stick back from Paama, by showing her what the complicated implications of his powers are. However, he feels nothing but contempt for humans and their suffering, whereas Paama really cares and tries to use the stick to help people, although since she does not have the ability to see the future, the consequences of her actions aren’t always as she intended. But gradually they start to learn from each other, in a really touching way, and their discussions are the philosophical heart of the book.
There are many other subplots going on around this, which are all wonderful. The House of the Sisters is a community of wise women who use their magical gifts to watch over Paama. Paama’s younger sister Neila is looking for a husband and is completely oblivious to her older sister’s problems. The spider-trickster spirit keeps finding himself drawn to help people rather that just mess things about. And the tracker Kwame is trying to do what his strange dreams are telling him. These disparate plots do eventually converge in a very satisfying ending.
Considering just how much is in this book, it’s an easy quick read, and totally delightful. I’m definitely going to read more by Karen Lord.
Redemption in Indigo is available from Amazon.