Almost Full Circle: From Montserrat to Canada and Back-ish
Jacqueline Greer Graham
Independently Published (2022)
Reviewed by Sheri Hoyte for Reader Views (09/2022)
“Almost Full Circle: From Montserrat to Canada and Back-ish” is the magnetic memoir of Jacqueline Greer Graham, celebrating the defining moments of her life that shaped her into the remarkable person she is today.
The charming adage “home is where the heart is” holds special appeal regarding the place Jacqueline calls home. We may root ourselves in many places over the course of our lives as we grow into our experiences, but often it’s our first memories of home that pull on our heartstrings. An enchanting island in the British West Indies called Montserrat is the place Jacqueline calls home, where she spent the formative years of her life in the village of Harris, raised by her grandmother. As she immigrated to Canada at ten years old to be with her mother, Jacqueline knew she’d return to Montserrat one day. It never occurred to her it might not be possible. Mother Nature would intervene when the Soufriere Hills volcano erupted after being dormant for 400 years. When Jacqueline finally makes the trek back to Montserrat, she finds that although the volcanic activity changed the landscape of Montserrat forever, there is no denying the pull of “home.”
“Almost Full Circle” is one of the most delightful memoirs I have read in some time. Jacqueline Greer Graham has a storytelling gift that is magical, reminding me of my grandmother—and I say that with my deepest admiration, as she was the most gifted storyteller I’ve met. Divided into four parts, each representing different stages in her life, Greer Graham takes her memoir up a notch by writing her story as a travelogue. With vibrant descriptions and informed commentary of the surroundings, as well as her intimate interactions with the people in the village, she invites readers with open arms to join alongside her, as she takes you all around her stomping grounds, showing you all the treasures and secrets Harris offers. One example of her inclusivity,
“Follow me on an imaginary helicopter ride over Montserrat.”—page 12 and “From the front of our house, you will see the beautiful Caribbean Sea and the imposing Soufrière Hills right there, in the backdrop.”—page 23.
I felt like I was immersed in Jacqueline’s world, and more often than not, I half expected her grandmother (called Mama by the author) to reach out to me with the same vitality she radiated with everyone in her inner circle. It was a life rich in love, family, values, and traditions, though not without its hardships. The modest lifestyle without a lot of the material items many take for granted provided Jacqueline with principles and strength that would spill over into all stages of her life’s journey.
I was struck by Jacqueline’s development as her story progressed. Astute from an early age, she trusted her intuition to guide her actions from knowing when a person was a rat of the humankind or when tense relationships closer to home threatened to escalate. Respectful in every situation, Jacqueline knew when it was time to move on or move forward and made decidedly mature choices for her age. Fast forward and she’s married with children, then a single mom. Jacqueline always seemed in control of her situation and is an inspiration to others, especially women.
Even her return to Montserrat years after the volcanic eruption was a lesson on how to look at and accept life. Though the tragic events surrounding the volcano destroyed her chance to return to Harris Village, she found much comfort in exploring places she’d never seen and introducing her children to the home of her birth, delighting in showing and passing down knowledge and customs to keep her family history alive.
“Almost Full Circle: From Montserrat to Canada and Back-ish” is an enlightening read, well-written, thoughtful, and respectful—of family, tradition and being true to oneself. I highly recommend this inspirational five-star read. You won’t be disappointed.