An Olive Grove in Ends, by Moses McKenzie
The plot of this novel is familiar: A young immigrant in a neighborhood scarred by poverty and drugs must choose between doing right by the young woman he loves or being lured by the pull of the streets. In Moses McKenzie’s An Olive Grove in Ends, we get a new take on the modern urban fable. McKenzie, a debut author in his early 20s, comes from the place he writes about, a multicultural enclave near Bristol, England. His protagonist, Sayon, is from a Jamaican-English family led by his pastor father. Sayon’s love interest, Shona, also has a father who is a church leader. McKenzie’s raw portrayal captures the textures and tensions of their lives as they weigh the promise of staying in school, the pressures of their elders and the Bible’s teachings, and the reality that the drug trade is an existential part of Sayon’s world. The language of the novel is vernacular, and pleasingly so. Reading the book is akin to walking down the street in Sayon’s neighborhood and absorbing its sounds, smells, and scenes.