Almost Full Circle

From Montserrat to Canada and Back-ish

Non-Fiction - Memoir
257 Pages
Reviewed on 09/14/2022
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Author Biography

Jacqueline Greer Graham is a Canadian citizen who was born in Montserrat, British West Indies. While working from home as a manager in the health information technology space, during the corona virus global pandemic, she was inspired to write a memoir. The pandemic highlighted for her how quickly life can change, and even end, and how important it is to capture her rich experiences for the benefit of her children, and others.

Jacqueline is excited about sharing her story and holds the opinion that you should write/record/share yours, too, even if you don’t publish it; it’s an enlightening and therapeutic experience from which others can also benefit. She would love to read and learn from her fore parents’ memoirs, if only they existed.

Jacqueline lives in Ontario, Canada, and has two children—Gabrielle and Lemuel.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Foluso Falaye for Readers' Favorite

In Almost Full Circle: From Montserrat to Canada and Back-ish, Jacqueline Greer Graham takes readers back to her Caribbean roots, her youth in Montserrat, and her time in Canada with her mother and stepfather. She remembers the wonderful and positive experiences she had as a youngster, like being brought up by her grandmother to be independent, taking part in vibrant Caribbean festivals and cultural events, and seeing snow for the first time in Canada. Her account includes heartbreaking details of sexual predators, domestic abuse, and the destructive Montserrat volcanoes. When she went to Montserrat years later, she saw that the volcanic activity had drastically transformed the island from what she recalled as a youngster. The profound lessons and lovely memories she got from her youth in the area, on the other hand, would stay with her long after natural calamities had transformed its physical structure.

Almost Full Circle by Jacqueline Greer Graham simply blew me away! This smart, incisive, and highly visual tale has opened my eyes to the commonalities between African and Caribbean civilizations. The novel's setting in the 1970s and 1980s is defined by nostalgia for a simpler time, as well as the fragility and preservation of the link to the past. This is a fascinating book that not only recounts a story but thanks to her great writing talents also displays Jacqueline's indomitable spirit. We can see how her abuse, adversity, and scarcity of resources molded her into a stronger person, similar to how butterflies go from caterpillars slowly plodding and crawling to butterflies smoothly and attractively soaring about. This book will appeal to anybody looking for a well-written, historically grounded memoir with a Caribbean and African theme. Words cannot fully express how I feel. You must experience it for yourself!

Maria Victoria Beltran

Almost Full Circle: From Montserrat to Canada and Back-ish by Jacqueline Greer Graham is the memoir of a woman who left her country of birth at a young age. Born in Montserrat, British West Indies, Jacqueline grew up in a closely-knit low-income family on an island framed by the Soufrière Hills Volcano. The book is divided into four parts, with part one chronicling her early life on the island. With several relatives moving to more affluent countries, including her mother, who works in Canada, she dreams of going there herself. The following two parts are about her move to Canada and her experiences growing up in her adopted country. The final part is her return to Montserrat after the island suffered from a natural calamity that destroyed most of the island’s infrastructure.

Jacqueline Greer Graham’s Almost Full Circle is an interesting story about a life that has gone full circle. As the author retraces her life, she makes you feel as if you’re participating in her journey. Rich in detail, the book is informative and entertaining. Some of the places visited in this book could have a tangible impact on the reader because they no longer exist. One can also experience the island’s culture and way of life through this narrative. The book covers all the highlights of the author’s life, and, in the end, it reminds us that home may not be a physical place - it’s where your heart is.

Grant Leishman

Almost Full Circle: From Montserrat to Canada and Back-ish by Jacqueline Greer Graham is an honest account of a young girl’s life, growing up on a small, isolated, volcanic island in the Caribbean, her journey to Canada and a new life, and then her return to her beloved homeland following a natural disaster. The author was born in what many might consider a paradise, the beautiful West Indian island of Montserrat. For the local population, life was often a struggle and for many, the easiest solution was a move to the “mother country” England, or one of its dominions, such as Canada. Many of the author’s relatives went “away” in this manner to make a better life for themselves and their families. Such was the case for the author’s mother, who left Montserrat when Jacqueline was just a youngster, leaving her to be raised by her grandmother. Experiencing many traumas in her young life, when her mother finally brought her to Canada to be with her and her new husband, life for the young Jacqueline was not exactly the dream she had envisioned. In Canada, she learned to be self-sufficient long before she became a true adult. Having survived her teenage years and with children of her own, she came full circle, returning to her beloved island, which had been devastated by a massive volcanic eruption.

Almost Full Circle is a story of growth and transformation as we follow the author’s life from a confused, somewhat lost child into a rebellious and angry teenager and finally to a mother seeking to impart lessons on life to her children. Jacqueline Greer Graham’s work reads like a travelogue as she takes you all over her hometown of Harris as well as those parts of Montserrat that a poor family might be able to visit. We experience the hardships of her younger days and sympathize over her interactions with the human variety of “rats” that she encounters along the way. For me, the interest in this story was the culture of Montserrat of which I was unaware, and the struggles to survive on this isolated island, especially for those who had neither influence nor wealth. The author does a good job of opening up all aspects of daily life through the eyes of a young girl seeking her way in the world. I particularly appreciated the focus on varying skin colors amongst the local population and how lighter skin was viewed as a bonus by some islanders but also as a mark of being different and of mixed parentage by others. The subtle racism inherent in these attitudes is something I’ve personally encountered elsewhere. I did enjoy the photos that accompanied the narrative which gave the story added depth. I appreciated that the author’s return to her home country, as an adult and a parent, somewhat completed the journey for her. This is an interesting read and one I can recommend.