Seventeen year old Marsha and June flee their remote home in the village of Egypt, on the Caribbean island of Trinidad after Marva accidentally kills their abusive father. This begins a journey for Marva in which she plots and executes her main goal-to protect her sister from further harm. Marva is strong, resourceful, yet vulnerable, a well-rounded character.
Don’t be fooled by the age of the main character, this is a book for adults. Coming Out of Egypt gives equal billing to Cicely, a teacher with a misty past of her own who befriends the girls while falling in love with the very detective assigned to uncover the truth about the death of Marva’s father. His conviction that the girls know more about their father’s death drives a wedge between him and Cicely.
There’s much to recommend in Coming Out of Egypt, with its large and varied cast of characters. Set in Trinidad in 1983, I believe, the book deals with the ongoing problem of familial sexual abuse, the dirth of laws back then to protect the abused, and the stigma (double punishment) this abuse places on the victims. The adult characters lament the absence of laws but it would have been nice to see them try to do something to change the laws…Marva would have… perhaps in book two.
The lead adult characters were both expats, an interesting choice by the author. It disturbed me a little and I tried not to read it as a commentary on the inability of our own Caribbean people to reach out to two young people in need.
I found June’s evolution from the frightened, withdrawn thirteen year old into the more engaging young lady she becomes a bit rapid but otherwise the characters were believable and engaging.
The main characters all come to know God and gather strength from this part of their journey, a natural progression in a Caribbean setting. The author does not present this transformation as a crutch, however, the characters still must face and solve their problems.
Coming Out of Egypt ends without the full resolution of the central issue which was a bit disappointing. There’s a second book in which you can continue to follow the journey.