Anthony Frampton’s debut novel, Bare Attitude, is a gripping romantic thriller that tells a captivating story of intraregional migration in the Caribbean through the shifting tensions of a slinky Haitian’s audacious quest for economic independence and her nourishment of an unlikely romance.
Imprisoned by impoverishment and stagnation in Haiti, Nathalie moves to the island of Dominica as a migrant worker under the sponsorship of the unscrupulous lawyer, Miguel Joseph, who exploits her. After meeting Judge Chester Detouche in a life-saving happenstance, she finds the courage and support to break free from Miguel’s stranglehold, but not in time to avoid a violent rape at a high-profile party that drags her into deeper distress. Her most promising hope for recovery and justice rests with Chester, who can seal her trust and a deep place in her heart if he can convince her that he deserves forgiveness. To avenge the crime against Nathalie, Chester must not only resign from the bench, but he must also discover her darkest secret that complicates his investigation, disrupts their relationship, and threatens his career.
In Bare Attitude, Frampton introduces readers to a Caribbean unfamiliar to most European or North American tourists, even those who are regular vacationers to the islands. I did not find glistening white sand beaches, expansive resorts, flailing dreadlocks, Bob Marley’s memorabilia, or hypnotic calypsos in the novel. Nor did I find the cliché images of the turquoise Caribbean Sea or the ambience of reggae hits that illuminated the backdrop of the plot. What I found in Bare Attitude were idiosyncratic places that acquired deep meaning from characters unpublished in brochures, places mimicking but not necessarily representing traditions and realities that only the luckiest or unluckiest of tourists would ever witness. The world that Frampton creates gives Bare Attitude a sense of native authenticity that follows the legacy of the best Caribbean literature, but devoid of an obsession with colonial themes.
Set on the island of Dominica, Bare Attitude is grounded in the experiences of the people who actually live there. The scenes are distinct and memorable. Frampton takes the reader to the court, the hospital, the bank, the farm. Through a spattering of rituals and his characters’ direct interaction with core institutions, he roots his Dominica in realism with an adequate tinge of fantasy. His backgrounds are at times quant and at others fashionable, but never dull or boring.
Frampton does not love his protagonists too much to hide his frustration with their flaws. In fact, it appears that he wants his readers, at times, to be disappointed, if not pissed, at them as much as they love them. Although the plot progresses around Nathalie’s wins and losses, it acquires richness from Chester’s reactions. Mostly, the reader would likely empathize with the two protagonists, but would also find it difficult not to agonize over Nathalie’s risky decisions and Chester’s insecurities. When Nathalie gets raped and Chester reels from a broken heart, for me, at these moments, their personas transcended fiction and transmogrified into that familiar friend, neighbor, and sibling, for whom I once grieved.
I got deeper insights into the main characters from their interactions with the carefully crafted complementing sidekicks and the interwoven subplots, which themselves take on a connected but complete trajectory, except perhaps for the brain fingerprinting case. Nathalie is my favorite character, not only because of her endearingly creole sassiness, but because of the precision of the maps that the author draws of her soul. Arguably, Frampton’s most lovable character is Kyle, Chester’s effervescent clerk, while his most complex is without doubt the mother of Chester’s son, Debbie, who reminds me of that girlfriend whom I keep diagnosing as crazy, perhaps wishing I had more of her guts.
Frampton tells this enchanting love story by alternating the first person point of view between Nathalie and Chester, a risky stylistic choice that he does just enough to successfully pull off. While, at times, both characters share similar internal struggles, Nathalie’s Francophonie lilt, artistic muses, and feminine impulses contrast Chester’s legalese, pragmatism, and machismo sufficiently to clearly appreciate their separate voices.
If you are interested in a love story of two young, black professionals that unfolds in an Edenic island crisscrossed by traditional and modern trappings, you ought to get your hands on a copy of Bare Attitude. The novel is a page-turner and is sure to keep you riveted, if not for the compelling story then for the engaging prose.
Dr. Anthony Frampton is a native of the island of Dominica. He currently lectures at the UWI in Mona, Jamaica. Click here to visit his Facebook page.
Dr. Winsome Chunnu-Brayda is the Strategic Director for Diversity and Inclusion and Multicultural Programs and Initiatives, Ohio University.