A mysterious child, half human, half-frog, is born on the island of Corpus Christi in the West Indies. Its mother becomes Magdalena Divina, patron saint of the island, worshipped by Hindu and Muslim Cast Indians, Africans, Catholics and indigenous Indians alike. The frogchild, allegedly drowned in a pot of callaloo by the wife of the man who sired it, becomes the focus of an evolving legend as Johnny Domingo hears this story, about his family from different people and tries, impossibly, to piece it together into one coherent and true account.
Many strange events must be reconciled: Magdalena’s suicide while giving birth; the live burial of the frog-child in a glass bottle in the Domingo family cemetery; the wanderings of a statue of Magdalena through the Maraval swamp. As Johnny seeks the truth, seven distinct visions emerge, remarkably different not only in the recounting of the events but in the telling as well – each teller relaying the story in dialect, with the richness and cadences of his or her native speech.
In the center of the novel, the statue of the miraculous black madonna reveals her own version – as a variation of Vaalmiki’s epic, the Ramayana, also including the monkey-god Hanuman’s tale, told in its own remarkable monkey language.
In this extraordinary first novel, Robert Antoni adds a Caribbean spin to magical realism, taking on such themes as the irreconcilability of science and religion; the inexactitude and mutability of language; and the power of family, myth and mysticism ¬with spectacular results.