Hazelle Palmer, the daughter of Caribbean immigrants, grew up in Montreal. Out of this background comes Tales from the Gardens and Beyond (Sister Vision, 143 pages, $12.95 paper), her first book of stories. This suite of connected tales is lively and often moving. It centres around Esmée, who leaves her abusive husband in Barbados to start a new life among a small communityoof Caribbean immigrants in Montreal. The stories are tied together by characters in common, by coincidences, by the kind of little things that connect us all. Caribbean speech rhythms animate Palmer's descriptions:
"Pastor Paul was a kind-face man. Old. About sixty with a soft voice. He wasn't married and you could tell because his clothes always had a shine on them. You know when you press black on the right side...how it picks up a shine? Just so his clothes always looked...it was as though the sun was always shining in him and somehow it shone through his clothes."
As well as illuminating several facets of the immigrant experience, Palmer explores the many kinds of human relationships and their complications, and she is not afraid to expose both their beautiful and their ugly sides. Tales From the Gardens and Beyond is full of memorable characters and situations; I am already looking forward to her next collection.