A Simple Distance
A provocative debut that masterfully fuses issues of culture, race, sexuality, and family.
What people are saying…
“Jean Sousa, an American lawyer living in Piedmont, an upscale gay-friendly Northern California community next door to Oakland, is caught between her West Indian heritage and her insistence on her own path in Silva’s spare, elegant debut novel . . .”
“Silva’s debut documents the myriad ways in which a prickly, unforgiving family can nevertheless ensnare would-be escapees, miring them in repression and dysfunction on a fictional Caribbean island, Baobique . . . Lushly evoked island atmosphere and cadenced language as circuitous as a Pascal family fight make for an impressive first novel.”
“In A Simple Distance, K.E. Silva reminds us that no matter how far we travel from family and home, we can never escape who we are. Silva has vividly drawn both San Francisco and Baobique, two worlds that have their own attractions, histories, complications, and social mores; and her descriptions of the fictional island are so precise that you can taste the fruit and feel the ocean breeze. Silva gracefully depicts Jean Sousa’s complex and sometimes conflicting loyalties between family, place, and self. And in Jean’s involvement with a local physician, she shows us the steep cost of stepping forward into love — and the higher cost of turning away from it.”
—Nina Revoyr, award-winning author of Southland
“A Simple Distance is anything but simple. It’s a sophisticated exploration of a complicated woman and her struggles to bring her true self into being.”
—Colin Channer, best-selling author of Passing Through
“A Simple Distance is a beautiful example of the American novel—a small and intensely hued piece of the vast mosaic. American lawyer Jean Souza’s parents came from ‘somewhere else,’ a tiny West Indian island where her mother’s family, the Pascals, were local nobility while her father had no name worth mentioning. For most of her life, Jean has tried to avoid entanglement with her family history, but the illness and death of her uncle precipitate a confrontation with the family that lives inside her. K.E. Silva’s story is swift and spare, yet powerfully compelling. Its portrayal of the Pascals and their world on fictional Baobique feels as vividly alive as the tropical vegetation that swarms the Pascal family estate.”
—Edith Forbes, author of Exit to Reality
“This is Silva’s first novel, though you might not guess it from the finely structured storytelling, spanning multiple times and places, and constantly shifting back and forth, like beads on an abacus, through the events of a family tree flung far by diaspora and postcolonial nomadism. Silva is especially good at bringing nature alive, fresh and new and wet . . . and she’s great at family: Jean’s Caribbean relatives are a lively, sometimes raucous bunch with great personalities—and yet you can see why they’d be incredibly annoying en masse! The house, Godwyn, carved out of its patch of jungle, shimmers in the background of A Simple Distance like a half-ruined shrine. You will be anxious to find out what happens on Jean’s voyage, and on the way you’ll discover many lovely and variant truths about what it’s like to be human.”
—Kevin Killian, poet, novelist, critic, and playwright
When Jean Sousa’s uncle, a high ranking politician on the fictional Eastern Caribbean island of Baobique is diagnosed with brain cancer, she goes back to visit him, to say goodbye to the man who convinced her to become a lawyer.
The story shifts between Baobique and San Francisco, Jean’s two seemingly irreconcilable worlds. With the death of the family patriarch, a land dispute erupts and Jean finds herself and her lover right in the middle.
Jean—forced to fight for her mother’s house, confront her own emotional frailty, and revisit her mother’s history of depression—must reconcile difficult family relationships and her place among them.
- Subjects: Black Interest, Caribbean Interest, GLBT Interest, Literary Fiction, Women’s Studies
- Tags: Jamaica, K.E. Silva