Reviews – Oh Gad!

Oh Gad! Publisher: Strebor/Atria/Simon & Schuster (USA) Genre: Fiction (novel) Year of Release: 2012 ISBN-10: 1593093918/ISBN-13: 978-1593093914
First Page

SPOTLIGHTED REVIEWS 

MERVYN MORRIS: “Joanne Hillhouse deserves to be better known…I believe that as the word spreads, she will be widely recognized as an important Caribbean writer doing distinctive work…in Oh Gad! (she) makes vivid a wide range of Antiguan residents: rich, poor, black, white, brown, educated, old, young; characters who feel compelled to emigrate, some who are committed to the place, and some who returned, uncertainly. The novel is largely about negotiations of identity; and it raises, inter alia, issues of family, class, history, ecology and politics…There are skillful descriptions of people, place events, traditions, and nicely managed dialogue that captures personality and mood.” (Jamaican Professor emeritus University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica and author of several books including I Been There, Sort Of: New and Selected Poems)

ERIC JEROME DICKEY: “Check out my good friend, Joanne C. Hillhouse’s new novel. She’s a brilliant writer from Antigua. Excellent!” (author of several New York Times bestselling books including Decadence)

ELIZABETH NUNEZ: “I’ve just finished reading your wonderful novel Oh Gad!   I’m so glad I chose it for my course.  You give some extraordinary insights into postcolonial Antigua that only a writer who had lived that life could have done so well.  Congrats!”  – (author of Prospero’s Daughter and other books, and professor at Hunter College – CUNY who has added the book to a course on Caribbean Women Writers planned for Fall 2014)

“It’s a very contemporary novel, and it deals with a very contemporary issue in the Caribbean, which is that the economy is based on tourism. To what extent do you compromise your country to let tourism flourish? And so what’s at the heart of this novel is the tension between the land developers, the ones who want to put up the big hotels, the big condos for the tourists and basically saying to the people, “If we do this, you will get money,” and to those who have farmed the land for a long time. There’s a sacredness of the land. And this what Joanne does so cleverly: She does not let us forget that slavery existed on Antigua. For all the blue water, for all the big sunshine, she never lets us forget the brutal history of slavery that occurred on the islands.” – speaking on NPR

IVORY KELLY: “It is a wonderfully told story, and there is a lot to love about your crafting. Among the moments and elements that stand out for me are the cooking scene in preparation for the CARICOM Day picnic, the ending …It reminds me of the ending of Things Fall Apart and many many other great …endings; your use of Antiguan proverbs (bravo!), etc. In short, your novel does to me what all great novels do to me: leave me thinking at the end: Shucks; I’m going to miss these people (characters); I feel as if I know these people intimately.” (author of Point of Order)

“Hillhouse’s authorial voice is lyrical and descriptive.  The interactions of this extended and blended family, along with their respective communities in Antigua and the United States provide a range of interesting perspectives that are expressed in characteristic dialogue of their regions. The universe of this novel is not only populated with intergenerational and multi-cultural characters but also with connections to ancestors and newborns.   Compellingly, the complexity and depth of Oh Gad! is well disguised as easy beach reading with the usual soap opera formula of romance, political intrigue, family feuds, and the like.   In this way, Hillhouse masterfully transports us back and forth from our modernity into the mythic yet real seat of Antiguan culture.  What we find there is fascinating.” – Leah Creque-Harris in Caribbean Vistas FULL REVIEW HERE

“I absolutely loved your book, both for the emotional narratives and for the you-are-there quality of the Sea View Farm stories. In the very brief time I have spent in the village, I have experienced both the exceptional caution and the incredible human generosity that was so beautifully explored in your story. Fascinating place, fascinating people.” – Patricia Fay, Professor of Art, Florida Gulf Coast University

“I laughed and cried my way through reading Oh Gad! My dad is Antiguan, and I grew up spending summers with my family there. There was so much that resonated with me – the landscape, the family dramas, the hot kitchen, the feeling of outsiderness, the stoicism. I love that it’s a story set in the contemporary Caribbean and addresses Nikki’s struggles fitting into a family structure alongside larger social issues of conservation, economic development, etc. I was so happy to be introduced to Joanne Hillhouse’s work, and I’m looking forward to reading more soon.” –  A. Naomi Jackson, writer

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READER REVIEWS

Personal notes (i.e. emailed feedback, where the name is mentioned it’s with the sender’s permission)

from Claudia Elizabeth Ruth Francis & Dr. Ronald A. Williams (click their names to read their reviews).

“Hillhouse’s Oh Gad! grapples with issues such as the impact of migration on Caribbean families and the threat that globalization poses to traditional land ownership and rural communities. Other themes explored in her works include classism, colorism, poverty, love, and redemption. Her writings draw heavily upon Caribbean history and folklore and showcase the richness and beauty of the Antiguan Creole language.” – Ivory Kelly, Belizean writer and University lecturer

“I don’t read novels …but the Antiguan element made me buy it.  Enjoyable so far and I like the usage of dialect in the book because I have an interest in Creole Languages from the Caribbean in particular.”

“…as usual your endings leave me wanting more. Not cool… But I love it!”

“I just finished Oh Gad!!!! Excellent! Should be movie!! I feel the need to share it with someone who would appreciate it.”

“I loved the ending. It struck a cord for me…”

“You give some extraordinary insights into postcolonial Antigua that only a writer who had lived that life could have done so well.”

“…wished there was a part 2.”

“…a very good read. Definitely recommended it to my coworkers.”

“I am so relating to Oh Gad. …I was wondering was Joanne reading my journals.”

“It’s been my bedside reading for the last week!!! Blaming you for lost sleep!! Enjoying every chapter.”

On Twitter

“#amreading, laughing, and crying my way through Joanne Hillhouse’s novel ‘Oh Gad!’ Loving how much there is still to know about Antigu(ans).” – A. Naomi Jackson

Tweeted review

On Amazon

“What a great book…a great summer read.”

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“Good read.”

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“Oh Gad! is a very intriguing read. It’s sad, happy, interesting and realistic…authentic. The ending was fantastic!”

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“This is an excellent book that captures the essence of island life. I will definitely be reading more from this author.”

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“I loved learning about Antigua and its history as the back drop to the story of complicated relationships and reconnecting to family. I could not wait to pick it up at night and pick up on the lives of its characters. Well written and I recommend it.”

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There is a lot to love about Oh Gad! Among the elements that stand out for me are Hillhouse’s use of the local speech flavor and the domestic scenes at Mama’s house, particularly the family’s preparation for the CARICOM Day picnic. Both feel very authentic, very Caribbean. I especially love the novel’s ending, and, without spoiling it, the way Hillhouse juxtaposes a festive cultural event with a great tragedy. The tragedy itself is wonderfully evoked—not melodramatic but with sufficient pathos. It reminds me of the ending of Things Fall Apart and many other great tragic endings. After the opening scene the pace becomes a little slow for me, for a spell, but not enough to discourage me from continuing. All in all, Oh Gad! did to me what all great novels do to me: It left me thinking, when the story ended, “Shucks; I’m going to miss these people (the characters).””

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“Dis book ya sweet!!!! Session.”

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“Quite an easy read; love the characters, you made them relatable. Recognized traits of myself and people.
Couldn’t put down!”

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“Loved this book! It was a refreshing read. …In many ways the choice to use the island’s language is a statement about claiming one’s own identity. …This book is fictional but in many ways it brings to light the realities of living on a small island in the Caribbean. I highly recommend this book.”

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Great book. …hoping for more novels with a Caribbean storyline. The story was easy to follow and she made it so realistic. I can’t wait for her next novel.”

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“Love the title. Found it to be quite fitting both in reference to the coal pot, and as a general expression considering all the ‘Oh Gad!’ moments that played out in the story. Also, loved the use of the Antiguan dialect and proverbs, very apt.

Although fiction, through skillful writing the story was powerfully evoking, and seemed real. An exquisitely beautiful reflection of reality!

Most notable for me, this is the first book I’ve read, that a sad moment literally made me cry (bawl lang cry wata with Audrey, during her resuscitation ordeal). Truly felt all her emotions, and all that the moment was designed to conjure up, and that for me is real deep.”

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There is something comforting and rewarding about identifying ‘self’ in prose, and this book does that for me.

I’ve always said that Joanne has this way of filling her characters with the breath of life. The same rings true of the characters I met in this book.”

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“In addition to giving us the story of Nikki’s finding herself, the reader is given a look into the Antiguan culture. The dialect is wonderfully written and rolls off the mental tongue while reading it. The book also touches on the subject of developing the country and its effects on the people who live there.” More @ blog Conquering Book Mountain.

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This is definitely Joanne’s best work to date. I found the characters to be complex and their stories compelling…Through this story, Joanne gives her characters (and readers) permission to live and feel, to be vulnerable, to make mistakes, to love and be loved, to trust and be trusted, to be themselves/ourselves – imperfections included.”

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A well-written book. The last time I felt this way about a book was when I read Toni Morrison’s ‘Song of Solomon’ over 10 years ago… By the end of the book my favourite character was the island. Although fictional, the book hints at the island’s socio-political reality and history that leaves me wanting to know more about it. I eagerly await the author’s next novel.”

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“I was trying to figure out which author this book reminded me of and it is definitely Maeve Binchy… I have never been to Antigua but I enjoyed the description of the scenery and the realness of each character. I would definitely recommend this book to others.”

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“It’s not often that I read a book twice. I could hardly put it down the first time wanting to know how it would end. And now, as I read it more slowly, I find myself caught up again in the complexity of the characters, in a fascination with a world with layers of languages I hardly know, with its sense of community.” (V. Bridges Moussaron, Associate Professor @ Université de Charles de Gaulle)

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Your characters were memorable and vulnerable and in following their respective journeys, I found that they forced the direction of mine.”

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I really enjoyed this book, and was sad when it ended…I became really connected to many of the characters and the family as a whole… I related a lot to Nikki – trying to let go of the “big picture” and just be in the here and now, something I’ve been grappling with a lot lately. …Great story, great characters. Congrats to a talented author.”

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This book made me laugh, it made me cry, and watching the relationship between Nikki and Aeden blossom made me sigh…… The surprise was the history lesson. Thank you Joanne Hillhouse, for helping me ‘A Born and Raise Antiguan’, to learn things about my culture that I didn’t know.”

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“This is a great story…The characters are believable and are complex…If you are from the Caribbean, you will love this book and relate to it. If you are not from the Caribbean, you will get a view of island life.”

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“Oh Gad, set in Antigua and New York, is about “outsiderness,” alienation and learning to fit into one’s skin. … Snippets of Antiguan society, culture and politics are revealed through the characters interaction. Characters grow on us as their journey reflects our own highs and lows.” (Althea Romeo Mark, Antiguan born author of If Only the Dust Would Settle)

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“It pulled you in and refused to let you go. Even though the dialect wasn’t something I was used to at the end of the book, I felt that I could go to Antigua and carry on a conversation with the best of them.” (Sylvia Hester, author of A Complete Stranger)

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“I loved this book; Joanne is the Caribbean’s Maeve Binchy. Each character came to life for me, I could picture each scene vividly, taste the food and hear the music. This book was an interesting rich experience.”

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“I picked up O Gad because I had read 2 other books by Hillhouse and thoroughly enjoyed her ability to weave a story around the every day details of Caribbean life. I was not at all disappointed. …Hillhouse unpeeled layer after layer of detail, intricacy and intrigue, finally exposing a most satisfying conclusion.”

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“OH GAD is an excellent read!! The characters jump up off the page and into your head as the rich imagery marry the drama of the story.”

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On You Tube (or event postings to You Tube)

“It’s so real…you use words like a paint brush” (Beverly George, president of the FOAPL, NY, 2012)

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“You’re in my top three favourite Caribbean authors…you created some really memorable characters…I must congratulate you on that you put some real radical people in your book that I just really empathize with…the book made an impression on me…it’s relatable, I can see what’s going on, I understand what’s happening, it’s like you were talking to me.” – Glen at televised book club event (2012)

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On Facebook

“Loved the story. Loved the characters. Loved that it was unapologetically Antiguan.”

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re oh gad

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“I hope that all my friends and family in the UK and USA will read this absolutely superb book about Antigua. “Oh Gad” is one of those books that you’ll want to keep. Plenty in it about Antiguan people, culture, and especially the language!”

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“Oh Gad! is brilliant.”

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“Absolutely loved this book.”

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“Un-put-downable.”

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“I loved it as well – so much so that I think it ended too soon – imagine that after all those pages, I still could not get enough.”

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“I know these people! Every last one of them; granted by different names, but I know them all the same. And Oh Gad! gave me a closer look at their lives the way moving among them “in real life” hasn’t been able to…

And as colourful and crazy and chaotic and sweet and easy and frustrating and blissful and difficult and intense and tiring as life here can be this book is a soothing reminder that, through it all, “family ah family”, both blood and otherwise, and its they who add meaning to the everything that is typical Antiguan life.”

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“Joanne, your work has challenged me to step up my setting game. I felt every mile of the island in your description.” (Stacey Campbell, author of Dream Girl Awakened)

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“Reading o gad right now miss joanne, enjoying it muchly!” (Lynn Sweeting, publisher of Woman Speak literary journal)

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“Just got it in the mail yesterday, it’s pretty hard to put down.  I take it to work to read during lunch time.  I will update after I’ve gotten through some more.  The story kind of hit’s home as I left Antigua at 12 and did not return until 19.  Went to live with my aunt so I can kind of relate to Nikki.”

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“I’m definitely absorbed in this world Joanne has shared and dread the day when I’ll have to separate from it.”

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“Read about your book on the Cooking Magic page. Looked it up on my nook, read the sample, fell in love and bought it immediately.”

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“…savouring each page as I pick out the characters I like (Tones and Carlene). A short bit beginning from the last paragraph on Page 93 continuing to the first line on Page 94 had me on [the] floor literally.”

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I have a love/hate relationship with Nikki. Sometimes I identify with her thought processes and other times I just want to smack her.”

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“Great wee read…..accurately reflects most caribbean island characters and life….from slave/colonial times up to date…with their baggage and all…charmed again ….nice one Jo.”

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It is 3:52 a. m. and I just finished reading “Oh Gad” by Joanne C. Hillhouse. What a delight to read and a great follow up to “Dancing Nude in the Moonlight”. Ms. Hillhouse is getting into her stride as a literary force to be reckoned with. The characters are well drawn …a marvelous effort!”

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One of my new favourite books Oh Gad! … an exceptional book- Oh Gad!”

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“What a freaking good book!”

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“Loved it, lived it.”

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“Whether you know likkle Antigua dialect or not, it’s a great read with some tremendous characters and a thought-provoking storyline.”

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“I was raised in Antigua and I must say, you have captured the essence of our culture in this book…Your references to the music, language, food, carnival, places of interest, all the intricate details are thoroughly represented. I love It!”

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“I read it and I must say this book had me emotional!”

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“I fully enjoyed it. It made me both curious about and familiar with Antigua. The characters are so vivid, that I got this idea that when I will visit Antigua, I will meet them in the streets.”

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“I read the book through my holiday Joanne and it is in my opinion your finest work for me so far. It must have been a challenge keeping all the characters fresh and making me anticipate to the last page what they would be getting up to next. Real cool twist at the end… unexpected!”

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“A truly delightful read. Takes the reader into Antigua’s easy laid back lifestyle and village life.”

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On goodreads

“Good read”

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“I really enjoyed this book because it provided interesting characters, a complex story line, and history of Antigua.”

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“Those who do not know, tend to think that all the Caribbean islands are the same; same rhythms, same references, but that isn’t so. Each one breathes differently and has its own means of communicating among its natives, different history and ways and means of fitting into the Caribbean fabric. Other islanders will latch on to those rhythms more quickly than not and it was easy for me to get a feel for Antigua, a country I have yet to visit.” Read more but beware the spoilers.

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“Slow start only because of distractions. Once i was able to focus i didn’t want to put it down. Awesome read!”

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On Caribbean Literary Salon

“This book took me back to the sound, smell, taste, culture, politics, the complexity of immigration and the fallout on families on the island of my birth and other Caribbean Islands.”

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REVIEWS – EXCERPTED FROM THE 2014 EDITION OF THE ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA REVIEW OF BOOKS

There are more than enough Caribbean novels that delve into Caribbean history. Oh Gad! is about modern Antigua, the effect of separation of families on their children and the modern world of human relationships.” – Fitting into one’s skin: a Review of Joanne Hillhouse’s Oh Gad! by Althea Romeo-Mark, Antiguan born poet and author of If Only the Dust Would Settle.

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Oh Gad! is a major artistic triumph of which all Antiguans and Barbudans can be justly proud. I certainly am delighted by this publication of this novel and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. As a work of fiction, it is beautifully written and flows like a river on its way to the sea. The conversations between the characters are well crafted dialogues, often very sharp, with verbal darts that pierce the thick armors of several of the characters.

Along with being very well written, this is a very Antiguan and Barbudan novel. Hillhouse’s fiction bears and reflects the cultural marks and tensions in our society, its patterns of in and out migration and its dependence on metropolitan cities like New York. Oh Gad! very artfully encodes in its characters and plot lines rich slices of the culture of Antigua and Barbuda…we encounter very directly the cultural values, proverbs, practices, and everyday crises that make up life in our twin-island state. Many of the difficulties that challenge her characters, Hillhouse links to slave past and the matri-focal family structure that it has left us. Thus, among the major achievements of this novel is the extent to which the social and cultural life of our society gets woven into its most basic fabric.

In spite of its carefully embedded cultural riches, Oh Gad! is a character driven novel. Its characters are very well developed, clearly delineated, and very artfully kept alive by Hillhouse.” – Badminded Nikki: A Review of Joanne Hillhouse’s Oh Gad! by Paget Henry, editor of the Antigua and Barbuda Review of Books and professor of sociology and Africana studies at Brown university, where he also holds the title of department chair.

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Hillhouse uses words carefully and specifically as she crafts her descriptions.

Hillhouse’s Oh Gad! is a multi-faceted novel that functions as an Antiguan travelogue, an account of Antigua’s history, and a novel that all Antiguans and Barbudans should read.” – Concept of Home and Family: A Review of Joanne Hillhouse’s Oh Gad! by Valerie Knowles Combie, associate professor of English at the University of the Virgin Islands.

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This sweeping and engaging novel addresses a multitude of issues including the social, political, cultural, romantic, religious, economic, and indeed ideological and psychological understandings relating to the villagers of Sea View Farm.

Speaking of men and women, Oh Gad! is populated with a brilliant and striking cast of characters.” – Oh Gad! A Pastoral Panorama of Fictional Narratives by Mali Olatunji, aesthetician who worked for 21 years as one of three fine arts photographers at the Museum of Modern Art in New York; his book, the Art of Mali Olatunji: Painterly Photography from Antigua and Barbuda is forthcoming.

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Around the blogosphere and other online communities

at Booker Talk

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“Many of us who had not yet read the book are ready to buy it now to read for ourselves, be it by ordering with the shopkeeper, by ordering a paper version, or an e-book on the internet.”- http://apagsite.com

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‘Oh Gad’ will not be everyone’s cup of tea,…I wasn’t sure that it would be mine at first either, but I ended up feeling very invested in the story, and truly wanted to know what the conclusion would be, and for me,..that is the sign of a good book and a great writer.” Read More of Tameka Hector Jarvis-George’s review.

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The comment above on the Caribbean Literary Salon was actually in response to  review re-posted by The Night of the Rambler author Montague Kobbe from his blog Memo from La-La Land. I appreciate Kobbe taking the time to give the novel a close reading and analysis. There were some complementary notes (“Hillhouse’s talent, evidenced repeatedly in her confident and often mesmerizing phrasing, merits another opportunity”), but overall it’s not a favourable review (“Hillhouse forgets the purpose and becomes too comfortable in the simple telling.”). I’m disappointed, of course (no one likes to hear their efforts described as a “failure”), but I do embrace the idea that there is room for improvement and growth. Besides, they can’t all be favourable. I do hope readers and other reviewers will continue to read and share their thoughts. Read the full text of Kobbe’s review here.

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“In her novel Oh Gad, Joanne Hillhouse braves the challenge of writing about the complexity of dual identity by showing how one person reconciles those pieces of themselves through fight , family, and forgiveness….I loved your character Nikki. I really identified with her identity struggles and how she came to terms with her past and present.” These were some of the interviewer’s comments during my Dreamgirl interview at Fabulous ‘N Frugal. Read the full interview.

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Oh Gad is the story of a young woman who was born in another country, but was raised in the States by her dad. She returns to her homeland of Antigua when her mother dies. The book starts a little slow with setting the background, but, after several chapters, I found myself intrigued. The main character, Nikki, has always felt alone. She laments never truly knowing her mother, but accepts that as being her own fault. She talks of being alone in ‘the organized chaos of New York housed with a man who never stopped being a stranger… A man who told her he was her father, but never taught her what family was.’ This novel is the story of her journey to discovering herself.” Read more of this review here.

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Oh Gad!  is one of the most important fiction books to come out of Antigua & Barbuda. I would call it fact fiction and I would suggest that Ms. Hillhouse is extremely brave to tackle many of the issues raised in this story which could be regarded as provocative by some. Nevertheless those issues are true and offer an excellent written portrait of elements of our society in the twenty-first century….” Read more of this review here by Claudia Elizabeth Ruth Francis, author of The Road to Wadi Halfa.

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Plot so real that fell into the book so much so that when I came up for air had to blink to remind myself that I do not know these people – yet I understand them… Joanne’s confidence in telling our story in a contemporary setting with some history and mythology thrown in without making you feel like you got to go to university to understand that our navel string is tied to the ‘muddy’ and sucks up our ancestors……bravo Joanne…bravo…..can’t wait to see this on the ‘Book Club’ list across the diaspora and beyond.” Read more of this review here at Handbags and Chocolate

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“Hillhouse expertly reels the reader deeply within the cultural fabric of Antiguan society.” – From author of the Sun’s Love is Ours, David B. Dacosta’s review posted to the Caribbean Literary Salon.

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“It was a great read. A really well written book.” Read more of this review here.

See links to other review pages, here.

See links to other articles/interviews related to my books or writing, here.