The Boiling Season - Christopher Hebert Set on an unspecified Caribbean island and narrated by the protagonist, The Boiling Season is a look at one young man's unwillingness to accept the identity handed to him by birth and by skin color. It's important to note that this is more a character study than a piece of historical fiction.Alexandre is raised in the slums by his father, a shopkeeper with socialist leanings and no interest in improving his lot. The memory of his dead mother's love of beauty instills in Alexandre the belief that he is somehow superior to the other slum dwellers. His ambition is admirable, but his disdain for his compatriots reveals the deep feelings of inferiority for a black person on a formerly colonial island, where wealth and whiteness are still prized. Alexandre spends his life refusing to acknowledge that he belongs to this island, refusing to identify with the other islanders as his people. After Alexandre's early years working for Senator Marcus, he goes to work at Habitation Luvois, where the bulk of the novel is set. Habitation Luvois is a derelict estate which Alexandre restores to its former glory while in the employ of Mme Freeman, a wealthy American woman. The estate becomes a lavish hotel catering to glamorous foreigners. Alexandre aspires to become one of these people, somehow believing that simple proximity will transform him and eradicate his identity as a native. If you're familiar with Haitian history, you'll recognize some parallels with the events in this story. As his country becomes increasingly violent and unstable, Alexandre remains locked away on his oasis, dreaming of the day when things will settle down and guests will once again grace the hotel. Even when the inhabitants of Cite Verd, the nearby slum, encroach on his idyll, Alexandre still remains a non-participant in the real world. This is a man who so deeply denies his true identity that he becomes almost invisible to the revolutionaries with whom he is forced to share space. Some patient reading is required in the middle of the story, which is often devoted to the routine tasks of restoring and maintaining Habitation Luvois. These activities are interspersed with Alexandre's longings and the life he lives in his mind. While insightful and well written, these portions of the book can come to feel a bit repetitive. This is a quietly alarming novel from an author who puts great care into the crafting of every sentence. The conclusion is understated, giving us hope that Alexandre is on the way to accepting the truth about himself and his role as a citizen of his native land. He appears willing to finally participate in creating positive change rather than remaining a judgmental bystander.