After all this space opera and time travel and scifi, I was ready to read something truly human as I cracked open In the New Moon’s Arms, by Nalo Hopkinson. The book opens with the funeral of Calamity’s father, and Calamity is trying to hide her laughter over Mrs. Winter losing her drawers. Calamity herself begins finding things, from a gold pin she had as a little girl, to her favorite toy truck, to a half-drowned boy with a broken leg washed up on the beach.
There are many strange things about the boy: his gurgling speech, the webs between his fingers, the curious rough patches that make his knees stick together. As Calamity visits “Agway” in the hospital, she remembers a strange little girl she played with as a child, and realizes that he is also from the sea people. And that’s when I realized, this was going to be a good one.
Caring for Agway helps Calamity reconnect to her past and the people around her. She becomes more honest with her daughter, Ifeoma. She re-establishes relationships with Evelyn, who was her best friend once; and Michael, who fathered her daughter. Meanwhile, Calamity juggles her attractions to two men. The first is Gene Meeks, who her father tutored but she doesn’t meet until her father’s funeral. The second is Hector Goonan, a diver studying the endangered Mediterrean monk seal, who helps rescue Agway.
The story is driven by the subtle magic that surges through Calamity with the hot flashes brought her by the Change. The interconnected schemes and relationships often meet in hilarious complications, but you never get lost or confused. It helps that typeface and tense tease apart the many threads of the story.
Calamity speaks in her distinctive Caribbean voice in first person past tense. Her childhood memories are written in third person present tense and printed in italics. There’s also clippings and news interviews about the political situation on her island. The seemingly unrelated story of the dada-hair lady are third person past tense and printed in italics, and the climax of her story solves several mysteries.
A funny, engrossing book, where the encounter with the Other helps you reclaim your humanity.