Lisa Stringfellow: A Comb of Wishes (HarperCollins 2022)
What would you wish for if you could have anything?
Since her mother’s death, Kela has felt as broken as the glass pebbles known as “mermaid tears” that are washed ashore on the Caribbean island of St. Rita. So, when Kela and her friend Lissy find an ancient-looking comb in a cave, against all her principles, she takes the treasure they found home. Meanwhile, far away, deep in the cold ocean, the mermaid Ophidia feels that her comb has been found and despite her hatred of humans, she must grant a wish. However, wishes are not given for free.
The story takes place on an imaginary Caribbean island called St. Rita, inspired by Barbados, where the author’s father was born. You can almost feel the taste of the food and the sounds of the street from the descriptions. The author also depicts how loving and cohesive the community on the island is. The character of Ophidia is derived from West African and Caribbean folklore but expresses the experiences of the black population in the Caribbean archipelago. Also, there are certain beginning and ending folklore element in the chapters about Ophidia, the “Crick. Crack.”, which comes from the African slaves. After the storyteller’s call (Crick) the audience responded (Crack), thereby establishing a connection between them, and from a loud response, the storyteller could know how much the audience wanted to hear the story. The ending of the tale, “The story is put on you.” means that the listener must decide what the story means to them.
Lisa Stringfellow’s father emigrated from Barbados to the United States and raised his daughter in a vibrant West Indian community in Boston. Lisa has always loved reading, but as a child she couldn’t really imagine herself in the stories she loved. According to her own admission, she writes for her own 12-year-old self, since until then she had not encountered a book set in a Caribbean archipelago or a West Indian protagonist. As a teacher, she also considers it very important that children, in addition to being able to associate with the characters, learn to deal with emotions such as loss and grief.
I liked this book so much that it has a chance for being the Best Book of the Year! I’m so glad I bought the OwlCrate Jr signed edition. Although the story was sad, it was not painful, but rather comforting. In fact, there were no negative characters in it, because each person had their own reasons for their actions. Personally, Ophidia was my favorite character. Although she was the ‘most negative’, her personality was likable and she was the key character of the story.
I recommend this book to adults and children alike with my whole heart!