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BLESSED IS THE FRUIT

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Blessed is the Fruit

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BLESSED IS THE FRUIT | HENRY HOLT & CO. – APRIL 1997

“Written in an intensely poetic language which draws from a rich West Indian tradition of Creole undercurrents. Blessed is the Fruit is a novel which is constantly creating itself, surging from newly invented words like the new world it points to.” -ROSARlO FERRE

This lyrical new novel by acclaimed young Trinidadian author Robert Antoni is told in the haunting voices of two West Indian women, both thirty-three years of age: Lilla, the white mistress of a once grand but now rotting Colonial man¬sion, and Vel, her black servant, who has come to the house seeking refuge from the hardships of her poor village. The two women have lived alone for ten years in quiet formality neither aware of the ways in which their dissonant pasts intersect. Now Vel finds herself pregnant, a condition she fearfully tries to hide from her mistress. The unborn infant, Bolom – whose name invokes the child of Caribbean lore. strug¬gling for life but destined to die before its birth – resists Vel’s efforts to abort by drugs, bush medicine, and spells of Obeah magic. After Vel makes one last desperate and bloody attempt, Lilla carries Vel upstairs to her bedroom, a private sanctuary where Vel has never been allowed.
From this safe place the novel begins and ends, as the individual voices of these women emerge to tell the stories of their lives. The women use two languages from two worlds that history has thrown together, yet, like the novel divided by a pane of glass, have been kept pre¬cariously apart. At the heart of the novel the unborn child dreams in the interwoven voices of its mothers, who embrace one another at last as the reader shatters the barriers that wound and separate. The resulting narrative is a lovingly braided tale of religion, sexuality myth – and, always, language. It is a testament to Lilla and Vel’s shared humanity, to their hope for the child to come, and, not least, to Robert Antoni’s masterful gifts as a novelist.

PRAISE FOR BLESSED IS THE FRUIT

“Robert Antoni’s new book, BLESSED IS THE FRUIT is so rich, so lush, so intoxicatingly gorgeous that, like a handful of my very favorite books—ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF SOLITUDE, BELOVED, THE HOUSE OF THE SPIRITS—I will be savoring it for many years to come. With an unfailing eye, exquisite humor, and astonishing insight, Antoni tells an unforgettable tale of the Caribbean.”—Christina Garcia, author of DREAMING IN CUBAN

“Robert Antoni is one of the most original and eloquent young writers working today. He is blessed with a keen ear, a fine mind, a lyrical, fluent, and graceful style, and an old-fashioned way of employing it, besides being equipped with a big bag of literary tricks that keep surprising and dazzling the reader. The overtones in this book are Joyce, Naipaul, and Tutpla; the inner tones are all Antoni’s. This novel is both dreamily stimulating and intellectually and emotionally activating, besides being a wonderful story that captures the Caribbean voice better than any novel since A HOUSE FOR MR. BISWAS. Antoni’s first novel was a toured force; this one comes at you like a roar of mythological force.”—Stephen Dixon, author of INTERSTATE

“In BLESSED IS THE FRUIT Robert Antoni articulates in achingly beautiful prose what is perhaps the central dilemma of life: the struggle to understand the self and to connect to the other. This is an extraordinary and, I strongly suspect, enduring work of art.”—Robert Owen Butler, author of TABLOID DREAMS

“Prodigal in its understanding of human desire, fiercely discerning of our tangled frailties and pluck, classic yet wholly original in its mythic double-voicing of hidden pasts and viable futures, BLESSED IS THE FRUIT assures Robert Antoni his rightful place in the first rank of serious contemporary novelists.”—Bradford Morrow, author of GIOVANNI’S GIFT

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“…an extraordinary and, I strongly suspect, enduring work of art.”
—Robert Owen Butler

U.S. PUBLISHER

HENRY HOLT AND COMPANY, INC.
175 FIFTH AVENUE
NEW YORK, NY 10010
646-307-5095
212-633-0748 (fax)