Force Ripe – Cindy Mckenzie
Force Ripe is a novel set on one of the many beautiful West Indian Islands. The story focuses on Lee, a little girl growing up on one of the island’s northern villages in the 1970s. During this time it was normal for children to be left with grandparents while their parents journeyed overseas. This was done in an attempt to make a better life for them and their family by sending money back home.
Revolution was the main agenda of this period of time, during which Lee’s father joined a growing Rastafarian movement. Force Ripe tells, in Lee’s voice, the story of her life in the ghetto with her brother and father. Due to the movement towards Rastafarianism, her and her siblings were taken out of school and left on their own to roam the bushes and smoke ganja.
We learn about how she was taken by an elder Rastaman when sage of only ten. This meant that she had to learn very quickly on her own how to survive. Especially during a time of women’s liberation, free education and youth movements. Lee is subsequently rescued when the Rastafarian commune is disbanded by the People’s Revolutionary Army-(PRA), and she then struggles to bury her secret past.
Force Ripe is filled with ideals and perspectives that still hold true today. Mckenzie does an excellent job of setting them in the context of the time and place by the vibrant and real voice of the main character. Lee is not fully knowing yet, but still comes across as being well-aware of her surroundings. Cindy McKenzie develops the voice of Lee poignantly. You are able to connect with the character over her childhood and teen years very vividly. She finally leaves us with a bright and experienced young woman on an imperfect journey to realising herself.