Brenda Flanagan, Allah in the Islands (Leeds, UK: Peepal Tree, 2009); 217 pages; ISBN 978-1845231064 (paper).
Allah in the Islands, the second novel by Trinidadian author Brenda Flanagan, continues the story of Rosehill, a community on Santabella Island (seemingly modeled on Trinidad). The lyric prose and skillful characterizations acclaimed in Flanagan’s first novel, You Alone Are Dancing, are harmoniously woven throughout a socially multifarious and politicized context that serves as both the foreground and the backdrop of both stories. Set after the departure of Sonny Allen, the co-protagonist of the first novel, Allah in the Islands assumes the reader’s familiarity with the lush tropical surroundings described in the outset of You Alone Are Dancing. Flanagan begins her second novel by immersing the reader in the first-person narrative reflections of Abdul, right-hand man for Haji, the political personality on whom one of the central storylines of the narrative hinges. Interspersing Abdul’s first-person narratives with chapters narrated by an omniscient voice, Flanagan carries the reader toward the novelistic climax through the accretion of Abdul’s ever-more-revealing chapter inclusions and through the rhythms of the text, established via an engaging demotic, variable chapter lengths, and the novel’s structure. Dividing the novel into three parts, Flanagan crafts each section—“Dry Season,” “Rainy Season,” and “Fire and Water”—to reflect its titular characteristics.