‘Rage from the Backwater’ – a novel by Somnauth Narine

Reviewed By Chaitram Aklu   

“Rage from the Backwater” is Somnauth Narine’s first novel. Published in September, “Rage” is a realistic suspense fiction set in Queens New York, Guyana and Venezuela.

Rage could easily lead the reader to conclude the book is non fiction. The author uses fictional names for his characters and real place names for the setting. The book taps into the travel genre in the vein of the great travel books by V.S. Naipaul and Paul Theroux.

Rage from the Backwater
Somnauth Narine

Narine was born and raised in Guyana. He began writing short stories as a teenager, many of which were read on national radio. His previous works include an anthology: The Call of the Ocean ((2012); a Children’s book: Anansi and the Alligator’s Diamond (2012). He also wrote four scripts that were turned into movies: Brown Sugar Too Bitter for Me (2013),  Forgotten Promise ( 2014), Protection Game (2016), Brown Sugar Too Bitter for Me 2, and The Oil Dream (2020).

Rage’s plot concerns a 31-year-old man, Kunal Satrohan, the protagonist, whose family past had been hidden from him his whole life. The story opens with the death of both his  parents – killed when an arsonist set fire to their home. At the time the police theory, based on one grainy image, was that it was randomly set by a homeless person.

He undertook to return his father’s ashes to his native village in Guyana.  There he learned from relatives that his father was wrongfully convicted and  served time in prison. 

Armed with this shocking information, Kunal went into detective mode in search of the truth. He began putting together bits and pieces of information. He started tracking down those responsible for his father being wrongfully accused and imprisoned for the death of a young child in his Corentyne village.

Over a 10-day period, the trail led him to several places in Guyana and neighboring Venezuela, and back to New York. It has a twist in the ending much like the plot of a typical O. Henry story. The famous writer (1862-1910) was noted for coincidences and surprise endings in his short stories. Narine’s Rage ends with confession, remorse and forgiveness.

Rage never slows down from the moment of the fatal fire to the end as the protagonist follows clues in Guyana and returned to New York as he closes in on the culprit.

Narine tells a good story. The plot is stitched together seamlessly so that the sequence of events flow smoothly throughout the 19 chapters. At one point, however, the reader may feel overwhelmed and worry that too many subplots and characters are put too closely together. But the narrative becomes very clear in the last chapters.This is because he has a way of compelling the reader to keep reading and uses an abundance of metaphors in his descriptions of places and events and people to hold the reader’s attention.

The reader becomes more interested in the protagonist and his next encounter as the plot unfolds. It is impossible to make a forward connection of what the next move of the antagonist will be and how the protagonist will respond. By the end of the story, however, the connection between the characters are made.

On reading Rage, a basic theme emerged that reminded me of a calypso by the  Mighty Sparrow in which he tells us “Love can cause a lot of confusion.” I would add that love can also lead to revenge and murder.  Also, weaved into the plot are other themes such as commitment and loyalty; family and community togetherness; keeping secrets; determination; remorse and forgiveness.

Chaitram Aklu is a writer and retired educator. He writes on a variety of topics including history, education, environment, and current events. He is based in New York City.