A Reason for Living Book Review
In this tale of love, passion, and self-discovery, three Jamaican men become caught up in a 1960s revolution that reveals injustices, oppression, and a purpose for one of them.
About A Reason for Living
It is the mid-1960s in Kingston, Jamaica, and the country is steeped in social, political, and economic inequities. Howard Baxter, the heir to a real estate empire, has no interest in seeking or managing wealth. Painting and deflowering Jamaican maidens are his passions. As he combs the streets looking for greater meaning in his pathetic life, it soon becomes apparent that Howard’s journey will not be easy. Bernaldo Lloyd, a member of the Baxter clan, is a medical student who is sensitive to the hopelessness of the Jamaican masses. Inspired by his close friend and Howard’s cousin, Ras Robin Pone, and their ties with the Rastafari movement that calls for social and economic equity, Bernaldo is determined to overthrow the corrupt government. As Howard, Bernaldo and Robin become influenced by The American Black Power and Civil Rights movements demanding equal rights for African Americans, the women in their lives both love and criticize them. But when revolution breaks out, Howard finally discovers a purpose for his twisted life that leads him in a direction he never anticipated. In this tale of love, passion, and self-discovery, three Jamaican men become caught up in a 1960s revolution that reveals injustices, oppression, and a purpose for one of them.
This is a powerful story told during an important time of change. The story circles around three men: Howard, Bernaldo and Robin but I feel that Howard takes the centre stage and he is the central piece that the story hinges on. It is his actions that bring about change and connect all of our minor characters together.
This novel exposes the difficult side of life in Jamaica in this time period. I think when we view this beautiful country, we don’t stop and understand enough the struggles of their people and what they have endured. This book encouraged me to do some of my own research into the political movements during this time frame and I found a new appreciation of the struggles and triumphs of the people.
Through this novel we are exposed to the poverty, inequality and the lack of hope of the people at this time. The extreme poverty seen in this story leads to a desperation, or even a lack of hope for the future. We see this in the relationships between our main characters and the ones that are explained to us in the story. We see characters sell their bodies, or have frequent partners – which was explained to us that this was done out of boredom (with no future to rise out of poverty, what should they be doing?). While they make up the majority of the population in Jamaica – they are the poorest in the country. The wealth of their country is held in the hands of a few, elite individuals who do not have the interests of the majority at heart. The government is corrupt and in the hands of the wealthy, instead of looking after their people, they send the wealth out of the country. Change is needed but how do we create change? Our characters, especially Howard, become the catalyst needed for change in their country.
Howard is a difficult character – he is an artist with a troubled past. He holds on to the pain of losing his Mother and so many times throughout the novel seems both lost and found. He has been abused by others and has used others. He wants to see a better future for his people but at times, I am not sure if he can see what that picture is in his own mind. He is rash at times but always with a sense of purpose. My heart was sore for him at times and at other times angry at him for his actions and hurting those around him. But you also felt sorry for him because he doesn’t know any better because of his own past. You want to see him succeed but he is also his own worst enemy. The ending was hard – I thought he may have finally found peace but we were left hanging.
This is a well written, thought provoking novel. I found it difficult to follow at first but about a third of the way in, I could not put it down. There were difficult scenes to read and some parts that left you angry at the treatment of the female characters but when you begin to look at the root cause of these actions, it really makes you think. The novel is geared towards adults and mature young adults due to the content.
You can purchase a copy of this book on Amazon.
About the Author
Raymond Arthur Julian Reynolds aka Julian Jingles, is a writer, filmmaker, and entrepreneur and operates in New York, USA, and Jamaica, W.I. He began his writing career in 1966 at 16 years old, writing A Reason For Living about a family caught up in a revolution in Jamaica in the mid-1960s. It was written in three drafts and completed in 1968.
He pursued a career in journalism at the Gleaner Company in Kingston, Jamaica writing extensively on the Jamaican music industry, cultural, and social issues. At age 22 he was a columnist writing Merry Go Round, and In the Saddle for the Gleaner, and Record Shop for the Star. He has published several articles, short stories, and essays in Swing, and Cooyah, magazines, the Abeng, and Public Opinion newspapers, in Jamaica.
He immigrated to the United States in 1972 to write two screenplays, “Half Breed,” and “One Way Out.” In New York he has written for the New York Amsterdam News, the Jamaica Weekly Gleaner (NA), Everybody’s magazine, JET, the Daily Challenge, the New York Daily News, the Carib News, and as a foreign correspondent for the Gleaner in Jamaica. He developed an interest in film and television production, and received training in script writing, film, theater, and television directing and production, with the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, and wrote and produced three documentary films, “Jamaican Gun Court” (1974), “It All Started With The Drums” (1987), and “Jammin’ In Jamaica–With The Mystic Revelation of Rastafari” (1996), and directed the latter two. He has also worked as production manager on several music videos with performers such as Kool & the Gang, the Manhattans, and Steel Pulse.
Between 1998 to 2018 he contributed frequently to the In Focus section of the Jamaica Sunday Gleaner, writing on socio-economic and cultural issues. He has been an entrepreneur as he pursues his literary career, involved in business consultancy with the National Minority Business Council in New York, and the importing, exporting and distribution of agro-products between Jamaica and the United States, and have produced several music concerts, and stage plays in New York, and Kingston.
He was married in 1972 to Charmaine Jasmine, who is deceased. He has three children, 11 grandchildren, and one great grand, and continues living in New York, and Jamaica.
You can connect with him on his website.
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Disclosure: I received a digital copy of this book in order to facilitate this review. All opinions expressed are my own.