No Telephone to Heaven

Michelle Cliff (Author)
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A brilliant Jamaican-American writer takes on the themes of colonialism, race, myth, and political awakening through the experiences of a light-skinned woman named Clare Savage. The story is one of discovery as Clare moves through a variety of settings - Jamaica, England, America - and encounters people who affect her search for place and self.

The structure of No Telephone to Heaven combines naturalism and lyricism, and traverses space and time, dream and reality, myth and history, reflecting the fragmentation of the protagonist, who nonetheless seeks wholeness and connection. In this deply poetic novel there exist several levels: the world Clare encounters, and a world of which she only gradually becomes aware - a world of extreme poverty, the real Jamaica, not the Jamaica of the middle class, not the Jamaica of the tourist. And Jamaica - almost a character in the book - is described in terms of extraordinary beauty, coexisting with deep human tragedy.

The violence that rises out of extreme oppression, the divided loyalties of a colonized person, sexual dividedness, and the dividedness of a person neither white nor black - all of these are truths that Clare must face. Overarching all the themes in this exceptionally fine novel is the need to become whole, and the decisions and the courage demanded to achieve that wholeness.

Product Details

Plume Books
Publish Date
March 01, 1996
5.33 X 0.65 X 8.01 inches | 0.42 pounds
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About the Author

Michelle Cliff was born in Jamaica and is the author of three acclaimed novels: Abeng, its sequel, No Telephone to Heaven, and Free Enterprise (Plume). She has also written a collection of short stories, Bodies of Water (Plume), and two poetry collections, The Land of Look Behind and Claiming an Identity They Tought Me to Despise. She is Allan K. Smith Professor of English Language and Literature at Trinity College in Connecticut and divides her time between Hartford, Connecticut, and Santa Cruz, California.


"The beauty and authority of her writing is coupled in a rare way with profound insight."
--Toni Morrison

"Mesmerizing ... possesses the incantatory power of poetry."
--The New York Times Book Review

"Structurally ambitious and innovative, making tangible through its form a vivid, spiraling tension between past and present ... a triumph of artistic integration, a hard-won harmony between the political and the personal, between realism and the mysteries of the spirit."
--Washington Post Book World

"I am in awe of Michelle Cliff's achievement. The work is lyrical, intelligent, full of a moral passion kept taut and spare and absolutley unsentimental. The range of her knowledge, insight, and compassion is astonishing."
--Janette Turner Hospital

"A tour de force. I very much admire what she does with language, and the fact that she's struggling with central issues of our time. A powerful book, truly a stupendous achievement: the complex sense of Jamaica with its anguish and its beauty. In her generation, Cliff is rare and is already distinguished as a writer of great substance and power."
--Tillie Olsen