The Land of Love and Drowning is Tiphanie Yanique’s novel about being helplessly in love with the wrong person. It begins during a time when the United States purchases the Virgin Islands as a territory from Denmark, and follows the story across two generations from Owen Arthur, a ship’s captain, his daughters Eona and Annette, and Jacob Esau, a son from his mistress. Eona has beguiling good looks and from an early age Owen begins an incestuous relationship with her that throughout her life serves as her true love.
There is a stark contrast between the sisters; Eona is refined with an air of sophistication befitting her finishing school training, and the younger Annette is impulsive and rambunctious. Owen Arthur’s shipwreck and the early death of his wife, Antoinette, leave’s Eona to raise Annette without the means they’d previously been accustomed to. Both sisters are wooed by romantic pursuits, yet Annette suppresses a genuine passion for her forbidden love to settle on a suitor who is a good family man, yet even with offspring happiness eludes Annette and Eona.
The trouble with the Land of Love and Drowning is Annette’s voice is written in a dialect where pronouns are misplaced and certain misconjugations work to portray Annette as a child, which distinguishes her from Eona’s educated and proper form of speech, but its continued use for Annette as an adult and history teacher seems disingenuous.
Also, throughout the story there are several passages that flash forward and describe the characters at a point in the future that doesn’t compliment the present-day narration of the story in any way. However, what Tiphanie Yanique captures really well is a sense of good feeling for Virgin Islanders becoming American and their subsequent disillusion with the arrival of tourists who are condescending and insensitive that instills resentment in the native population.
Despite some flaws, Land of Love and Drowning is an interesting and dramatic story.