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This is an official Caribbean Books Foundation review http://www.caribbeanbooks.org/

The sun is out today again, after a series of heavy rainy days. Yes, the Caribbean is currently being pummelled by one tropical storm after another. Nothing new during this time of the year. Storms, rain, and floods for the Caribbean are like earthquakes are for Asia. It will happen. We will be hopelessly unprepared, but we will band together and get through it anyway.

That being said, hope things are sunny and well on your side of the world, and if not I hope you are cuddling up somewhere dry and warm looking for a book to read! And do I have one for you! This time from a Jamaican author (Jamaica! Wah gwaan?) J.L. Campbell’s book…

don't get mad get even

Don’t Get Mad… Get Even Vol 1

If some of you took the opportunity to read the Caribbean Romance Teaser Book 1 from Caribbean Books Foundation a few years back you would have gotten a taste of her book ‘Grudge’, as she was one of the two authors featured in it.

Don’t Get Mad… Get Even, which also has a Vol. 2 by the way, is a collection of her short stories that all stay true to the book’s name, some of them terrifyingly so. I was seriously reading them and thinking, ‘what the hell?‘ most of the time.

But let’s begin the analysis. There were just five stories so I’ll review each one in turn.

A Push In The Right Direction

This story surprised me simply because, as the first one I knew it would set the stage for the rest and I just didn’t expect it to go there. While reading it, I must admit, I really hoped all the others weren’t along the same thread because it was rubbing me all the wrong ways from the beginning. Not because it wasn’t good, but because of the story’s theme, domestic violence.

I don’t think I will ever understand the inclination to stay with an abusive partner. I know it’s never a simple situation and there’s always other factors to consider, e.g. mental issues, family history, etc. I just have a strong instinct to protect myself especially against a ‘foe’ that means to do me harm. There are many things I am willing to forgive, but threatening my life is not one of them. So this story had me on pins and needles.

You might say, ‘don’t we all have a built-in survival instinct?‘ Yes, we do, but some choose to ignore it, whether because of fear, love, etc. My point being, someone with a strong survival instinct won’t easily put them-self in a situation to be harmed. And like a cat being backed into a corner, I’ll do what I have to to get out. It’s me or you! Love be damned! And the main character of this story finally reached that point. She was pushed into a corner and pushed back, literally!

You know, you can love people from afar. Behind a wall and an electric fence… and 20 years to life. Not in my bed next to me. I would never be able to sleep next to somebody who tried to attack or kill me. How does one do that? It boggles my mind and disrupts my spirit just thinking about it.

Okay, let me calm down.
cold sweats

Conditional Surrender

Here we have the story of Celia… Gray.  smirks in Fifty Shades references

Honestly, it was a lot like 50 Shades, from the meet cue to the controlling-type relationship set-up. Unlike 50 Shades though it went terribly wrong, or rather what happened is what might actually happen in real life, not that romance fantasy crack that people be happily sniffing.

By this time though I was wondering if this was going to be an entire book of stories where women got back at their lying, cheating husbands. It wasn’t, not at all. But this story had a serious WTH ending. No joke! You all, I still can’t even… just why, just what the hell?

I think this is why I prefer epic and high fantasy. Let’s clash swords and cast spells. Let the heroes win. Even if they don’t, it was still a great, valiant ride, but this ending made me want to flip a table.

I will not accept it!!

Entrapment

See this obeah thing. sigh

For those who don’t know, Obeah is a system of spiritual practices by certain religions of African descent in the Caribbean. It ranges from the harmless stuff like healing concoctions but then there’s also the ‘black magic’ side which unfortunately is what it is most known for in movies and gossip groups. And bai!! cold sweats this story was definitely the black magic type.

I am not reading this one again. I’m sorry. And it’s not because it was bad, it wasn’t. Not even because it was not entertaining. I couldn’t put the book down! I ‘fraid is all and I’m not ashamed to admit it! O_o

The one truthful(ish), non-cheating husband end up being a damn fool. Men, listen to your Mammie when it comes to these women sometimes and never underestimate your opponent. That’s all I have to say.

None. Fellah had no chance.  gulp

Sudden Emancipation

This story made me feel much like the first. It raised a quiet anger in me as it felt real or related to real events that I see on a daily basis.

Unpopular opinion…

I sometimes feel that children fend better when their fathers leave than when their mothers do. Not because the mother is the only one who can give a child proper care. I know there are millions of people who will have stories of hard times without their fathers. Having any parent leave the home sucks period and is hard on any family.

What I mean is, what I’ve noticed from looking at the world around me, is that many times when a man leaves his family it’s a clean break. He moves on, maybe gets another family, the children and mother get by with or without his support and most of the time, despite any evident emotional baggage, the kids are alright.

But when women are the ones to leave, and this is just what I’ve seen, a lot of the time there is always a lot of spite in their actions. It’s not a clean break. Many times mothers will allow their children to be in situations where the children suffer just to spite the father. I have seen this happen faaaar toooo many times and this story was exactly that situation. It dug at my heart. So close to the reality of many people I know. Gets a plus for most satisfying ending though.

The Last Laugh

Was not funny!! But I guess if you kill somebody it doesn’t matter what they promised anymore. Both characters were taking advantage of each other. I don’t know where to swing my sympathy in this case. Maybe to Carlene, but then she got herself into that situation knowing full well the scamp that Herman was. Trust me, she knew!

I just… I don’t know what to say again about this story! The sinister Jamaican humour really came out in this one, as well as Entrapment. For real! Those two really reminded me of Jamaican duppy stories, which 90% of the time is an ‘I lose then you lose‘ situation. Which is exactly what happened here.

I just had to sit down for a minute after reading this book and wonder about… life. Because I literally know at least one person who has experienced a situation like each one of these stories and that is…

…kinda shocking when I think about it.

I purposefully tried not to give a synopsis of each story. I feel as if saying what it’s about in even the slightest will spoil the duppy magic it was dipped in. So I simply gave my thoughts and feelings about them because I want you to be surprised and engaged when you read it.

One thing they all had in common was endings where the people who were being wronged or mistreated were able to get some justice. Some were strangely satisfying while others were just pure ‘what the hell’ madness.

Overall, I would say, I bow to J.L. Campbell. These stories were frustrating but in a good way. I like when books and movies make me feel something even if I want to flip a table afterward. They were excellent and relatable on any level in any country. It really gives you a peek into the mind of the Jamaican diaspora with more than a touch of Jamaican wit and humour which on a greater scale is unmistakably Caribbean.

It really was a good read for all my cringing and maybe I will light a few candles, say some prayers and risk reading it again. ;P I’m just being silly. I will definitely share it. Sharing this book with everybody!

So please give J.L. Campbell’s book of short stories a try and visit the author’s website where you can find more of their work and all the links for their social media accounts to catch up on what they’re doing next! Also, visit the Don’t Get Mad… Get Even Vol 1 book page on Caribbean Books where you can find purchase links. Thanks for reading and see you next month for another review!

– N. Gomes, Caribbean Books Foundation

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