Water Island is supposed to be part of the United States Virgin Islands, but we were never sainted like Saint Thomas or Saint John or Saint Croix, and so everyone forgets we exist. People have forgotten about Water Island since the days when there were slaves. Since no one remembered Water Island was right there beside Saint Thomas, slaves escaped to Water Island to be free. They didn’t have to hide whenever a boat filled with white men passed by because those men never even looked their way. (p. 45)
Caroline was born during a hurricane on a seemingly forgettable island. Because she is a hurricane child, legend has it that bad luck will follow her all of her days, and it seems to be true. Her mother left her without warning and Caroline is desperate to find her. Caroline takes us across the ocean with her every day she goes to school, shows us around Saint Thomas after meeting a new friend, and takes us into the country as she searches for her mother.
Along the way, we learn aspects of island life, culture, and lore. Connected to the remoteness, isolation, and invisibility of Caroline’s place, readers are asked to grapple with what it means to be seen and understood. With elements of speculative fiction and mystery and representations of Black queerness, Callender’s enchanting writing brings Caroline to life, engaging readers in an important consideration of place and identity.
This book adds important nuance to what we think of as “rural”. Islands are about as isolated/remote as a person can get, and on them there are rural communities, but islands are not typically the first geographical location to come to mind when we think of rural spaces. So, not only is Hurricane Child a powerful story, but it’s also a powerful reminder of how we can and should be interrogating the ways rural places and people are stereotyped and made a monolith in society.