In the wake of her mother’s death, Leigh McCaulay returns to Jamaica after fifteen years away in New York to find her estranged father and discover whether she has a place she can call home. Not least she must re-engage with the complexities of being white in a black country, of being called to account for the oppressive history of white slave owners and black slaves.
Interwoven with Leigh’s return are the stories of two earlier arrivals, both from Scotland – of the abolitionist Zachary Macaulay, who comes as a precocious youth of sixteen to work as a book-keeper on a sugar estate in 1786, and of John Macaulay, who comes in 1886, a naïve and sometimes self-deluding Baptist missionary, determined to bring light to the heathen.
For each of these arrivals, there are discoveries to be made, often painful, about Jamaica and themselves. Each must come to terms with the contradictions of a society immured in injustice, racial inequality and endemic violence; a landscape of heartbreaking beauty; and a people who endure with an unquenchable urge for independence.