Tue | Apr 16, 2024

Compelling narrative of a family saga

Published:Sunday | February 18, 2024 | 12:10 AMBook review by Nicole Watson -
When Trees Fall
When Trees Fall

W hen Trees Fall, the first book in the Wood and Water Saga, by Dale Mahfood, is a stimulating coming-of-age story set in Jamaica in the mid-1900s. It tells the tale of three families who are different in so many ways, but who are bound by one man, “for better or for worse”.

The story is set in a seaside village in a time of great uncertainty. The year is 1945 and Jamaica is looking forward to its first general elections, meanwhile the effects of the ongoing World War II are looming. Mahfood weaves an intriguing story, interwoven with a depiction of Jamaican society under colonial rule, from the perspective of three protagonists: Cailin, a naïve girl living in a Jamaican great house with her well-to-do family; Archie, a young, resentful boy trying to find a family of his own and his place in the world; and Sharpe, a young man from a poor village with little to speak of, but much to prove. All three vie for the approval of one man – Malcolm Campbell. Considered a drunken tyrant, womaniser and murderer by his workers and his community, Malcolm is at the centre of a series of adventures and misadventures that unfold in the quaint village.


The highlight of the story is the great family saga. From Cailin having a crush on the mysterious, Archie, to later finding out that he is actually her half-brother, to the great reveal that her father – whom she has been devoted to all her life – has actually fathered many along the south coast of Jamaica, and also has a family in Cuba, this family certainly has its drama. The story shows, however, that Malcolm also has great influence on those outside of his family, namely, Sharpe, his foreman. From taking Sharpe under his wing and becoming a father figure, to applauding Sharpe when he murdered an obeah man in his village who was trying to sabotage him, it is clear that destruction follows wherever Malcolm leads. After all the damage he inflicted on those around him, however, it is clear that he feels no remorse, leaving his family to wonder if he is even capable of such feelings.

Overall, this was a well-written story with a descriptive writing style that created rich imagery and unveiled well-drawn characters, such as Malcolm: the use of flashbacks was a welcomed technique that helped to fill in the crucial backstory of who he was and how he came to be. The historical flavour of the book also accurately depicts the state of the Jamaican economy, the political atmosphere, and the social issues that were, and still are, a part of the Jamaican culture.

What a compelling story! This first instalment in the Wood and Water Saga is definitely a must-read.

Title: When Trees Fall: Book One of the Wood and Water Saga

Author: Dale Mahfood

Published by: Rockstone Publishing House

ISBN: 978-1-7359083-5-9

Nicole Watson is a communicator, content creator, and a blogger. Follow her on Instagram @nicolesbookishbits