A unique bond forms between a twelve-year-old and a Jamaican housekeeper in this moving novel that is “a work of art” (Los Angeles Times).
The basis for the beloved film starring Whoopi Goldberg, this prize-winning novel by the author of Nightswimmer and Cloudland charts the profound, rare friendship between a wise woman named Clara and David, a twelve-year-old boy adrift in the wake of a family tragedy and his parents’ broken marriage. As the two grow closer, she brings him into her special world of patois and Jamaican beauty parlors and shadowy alliances, and he comes to realize that in her native country Clara has left behind a mystery, which he grows determined to unveil.
Heralded as a classic, Clara’s Heart is at once moving and comical, a tribute to unconventional love, by “a writer in total command of his narrative” (Ian McEwan).
With its intricate characterization, a plot that weaves together two very different cultures, and a narrative enriched by fresh, often poignant dialogue, this is an extraordinary first novel. At its heart is the unusually close relationship betwen Clara, a Jamaican, and David Hart, who is eight years old when Clara enters his life. David's mother meets Clara in a Jamaican hotel, where the kind, wise woman is a chambermaid. The Harts are on a trip designed to lift Leona from the depression that has engulfed her since her infant daughter was found dead in her crib. Clara reaches out to Leona, soothing her in a way no one else has been able to, and the woman returns to Rye, N.Y., as the Hart's live-in housekeeper. Leona turns to spiritualism and philosophy to fight her inner emptiness, becoming estranged from her husband, who eventually moves out. It is then Clara who provides the only constancy in David's life. Yet the intensity of their friendship, and the dark secret of her past that Clara is determined to hide from David, creates an emotional chaos that is skillfully portrayed and finally resolved in this wonderful novel, which won the London Times/Jonathan Cape Young Writers' Competition. November 21