This is the story of Mama King, an elderly woman with a strong and indomitable spirit. We meet Mama King when she is placed in Frangipani House, a rest home, by her children who live in America. Her experience at the rest home is a claustrophobic one that robs her of her freedom, and slowly leeches away at her senses. She delves into her memories in order to survive that experience, but eventually gains enough lucidity to escape. This escape leads to the family descending on the island to seek out their beloved Mama.
The story is set in Guyana.
The timeline flits between 1950-1970.
1950-1970 saw a period of emigration in Guyana.
Parents would leave Guyana to seek financial amelioration in either the US or the UK. The offspring of these emigrants would often remain with grandmothers until the parents gained a stable financial footing. The parents would then take their children to live with them. In many cases, these migrants did not return to Guyana.
Therefore, migration facilitated a way out of poverty, but often resulted in dysfunctional families.
Mrs. Mabel Alexandrina King (Mama King)
69 years old.
She has two children, Token and Cylette.
She has five grandchildren; Soloman, Cindy, Charlie, Boyson and Markey. Her husband's name was Danny.
She was physically abused by Danny.
Her best friend is Ginchi.
Mama King is a very feisty old lady who often kept the nurses in line. She was very independent, as seen in her feelings of isolation at Frangipani House vs. peace among the beggars. She was very poor, as seen in her recollections of the various things she did to provide for her children. She was very loving, as seen in the kindness shown to her grandchildren. She is an excellent mother who was willing to take on the most menial of tasks in order to ensure the survival of her children.
Olga Trask (Matron)
Matron had an excellent reputation as a woman who was good, and did good works. She purchased Frangipani House after her mother's death.
Despite having an excellent reputation, she treated the inmates coldly. We learn, later on in the novel, that Matron has led a harsh life that contributes to her behaviour towards the inmates at Frangipani House. Her mother neglected her emotionally, then sanctioned her marriage - at sixteen - to an old man. She resented her mother.
Mama King's best friend.
Helped Mama to deliver her children, and helped her to take care of her grandchildren. She was a loyal friend to Mama King, as seen in the fact that she visited her on Sundays, while she was an inmate at Frangipani House. She killed Danny for constantly hurting her friend.
Despite this act, she was a good person who adopted Carlton after he was abandoned. She died of breast cancer.
Mama King's deceased husband.
She admits that she married him for security, not love.
He physically abused Mama King throughout their marriage.
Her best friend, Ginchie, killed him and Buckman disposed of the body. Mama King believed, for years, that he had abandoned his family.
Ben Le Cage
A gentleman who courted Mama.
She rejected him because she believed that he only wanted sex, and might have extended that desire to her children. He visits Mama King at Frangipani House and is shocked at her regression. He leaves, from that visit, haunted and sad.
Mama Ginchi's adopted son.
He works at Frangipani House.
He makes plans to leave the community when Miss Ginchi dies.
Matron uses her skin tone and physique to prompt him to investigate Mama King's disappearance.
He was half Portuguese.
He courted Mama King while she was being courted by Danny.
He was angry that he was not chosen, but Mama King believed that he only wanted to have sexual relations with her, and nothing else.
He is in agreement with his wife that they should become Mama King's...
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