Cover Image: Windward Family

Windward Family

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Member Reviews


From the vibrant cover to the amazing places mentioned in the description I was ready to embark on a colorful journey! This book lagged at times with all the information provided but this is an amazing memoir on finding home. 

I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. #NetGalley #WindwardFamily
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From the Caribbean to England, North America and New Zealand and spanning generations from the 19th Century to today. Alexis Keir returns to the Caribbean island of Saint Vincent and begins to unravel the stories of others who left the island, searching through diary pages and newspaper articles, shipping and hospital records and old photographs. He uncovers stories and tales from years past. 
I liked the concept and description of this book, but it didn't live up to it in actuality for me. Is it fiction, is it a memoir... it overall felt a little disjointed and fragmented. Maybe too many people / stories in one? 
If you enjoy memoirs, especially of the family history type, this might be for you. But it wasn't for me.
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⭐⭐⭐ -- Decent cover on this book

Windward Family: An atlas of love, loss and belonging by Alexis Keir tells the story of a Black British family that is separated by thousands of miles but united by love, loss and belonging. The book takes readers on a journey from the Caribbean to England, North America, New Zealand and back again across generations of travellers spanning the 19th century to the present.

While there were some outstanding parts in this book, I found it to be an alright read overall. The jumping around time-wise between memoir and fiction made it difficult to stay invested in the story, and I also found that the entire book felt really choppy and disjointed. However, I appreciate the author's effort to uncover lost memories and rediscover old connections while shedding light on tales of exploitation, endeavor, and bravery from those who had to find a home far from where they were born.

Overall, if you're interested in exploring themes of love, loss, and history within the generations of a family, then Windward Family might be worth checking out.

**ARC Via NetGalley**
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An interesting premise. But very challenging to complete. The structure of the memoir was a bit jumbled and the back and forth in the timeline, with huge chunks of focus on the narrator’s life became distracting - it felt like two books crammed in one. The author may have been better off having one book focusing on Saint Vincentians in the UK and their life history, and one with his own life history and family.
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Did I have very high expectations for this book? Yes. Did it deliver on it? no.

It wasn't a bad book, it just left a lot of topics not well touched upon.
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"Windward Family" by Alexis Keir is a powerful and moving novel that explores the complexities of family relationships and the struggle for identity and acceptance. The story follows the lives of three siblings, Josie, Jesse, and Travis, as they navigate their relationships with their abusive father and with each other.

One of the strengths of this novel is the author's use of multiple narrators to tell the story. Each of the siblings has their own unique voice and perspective, and the reader is able to see the events of the story through their eyes. The characters are complex and well-drawn, with their own flaws and vulnerabilities. The author does an excellent job of showing the different ways that the siblings cope with their traumatic childhoods and the impact it has on their adult lives.

The plot is well-crafted, with a steady pacing that keeps the reader engaged. The author does an excellent job of building tension as the siblings grapple with their own issues and with the fallout from their father's abuse. The resolution is satisfying and realistic, with a sense of hope that is earned through the characters' hard-won growth and understanding.

Another strength of this novel is the author's use of setting. The story is set in Hawaii, and the author does an excellent job of describing the natural beauty of the islands and the cultural traditions that are woven into the fabric of the story. The setting adds depth and richness to the story and underscores the themes of family and belonging.

Overall, "Windward Family" is a powerful and emotionally resonant novel that explores the complexities of family relationships and the struggle for identity and acceptance. The characters are well-drawn and relatable, the plot is engaging and well-crafted, and the setting adds depth and richness to the story. I highly recommend this book to anyone looking for a compelling and thought-provoking novel.
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As children, Keir and his two siblings were sent "home" to Saint Vincent while their parents tried to sell up in he UK and force a new life in America. Things went badly wrong, as we find through scenes splintered through the book, and eventually they were brought home to the UK, a new house bought and nothing more really said. Twenty years later, after time in Aotearoa, where he learned a lot about people's relationship to land, Indigenous communities and the community of friends and third-sector workers, he's ready to go back, and from then on we revisit the island with him, latterly to spend time with his parents, who did the big return and built a house over there, but moved backwards and forwards over time, his mum returning for medical treatment, his dad I think still there, ageing within the hammock of his community. 

As Keir learned more about the journeys his own family took, he also learned of the history of Saint Vincent, harbouring those who pushed back against slavery, with an African influence that could have come from several different sources, and with its own character. He also started to learn about and research other, earlier, immigrants: a boy plucked from his mother's arms to be exhibited in a circus, his mother who gets the chance to try to find him, a footman from Harewood House who mysteriously passes back and forth, and an earlier nurse than his mum. Their stories are included, invented voices and circumstances, something I don't usually go for but fitting in beautifully here in this thoughtful and careful narrative.

Another point I really appreciated was the pushback against toxic masculinity / toxic ideas of Black masculinity, as Keir uses sport to work off his trauma from being sent away early, and his friends in sport to help him, works in social care and support with the Deaf community and keeps in close touch with his sons when his relationship breaks down, acts as his mum's carer in her final illness and is a big support to his dad when he's alone, modelling a mode of manhood that we often miss in popular culture narratives. 

After the main sections of the book we have some long essays which pull themes together, on who cuts whose hair when and how, on parrots; these pieces were I think published separately and first and they have some repetition from earlier sections but it all weaves together very nicely as a whole, and is an engaging and absorbing, and ultimately positive, read. 

Even more positively, we find a letter from Alexis at the end of the book which shares how success for him lies in being able to share his words and experiences back home in Luton, in engaging with writers' groups in Saint Vincent and "persuading people to listen to and read stories which have not been heard before".
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This book is described as an atlas of love , loss and belonging and seeing the listing on NetGalley I was very keen to pick this up. Listed as a memoir I anticipated a richly colourful depiction of the authors search for his St Vincent ancestors.. I would have been interested to experience the culture and history of this island and visualise what life is like on there. However the book was very oddly structured to the point where while reading it was impossible to determine its genre.. The narrative switched continually between a historical account. a memoir and historical fiction which resulted in a loss of enjoyment and a constant state of confusion. There was no sense of warmth and I didn't get the impression that the author was really engaging with the culture other  than being a casual observer.I would have enjoyed this work a lot more if it had stuck to one genre or style.
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A very fragmented memoir, which seemed to jump from too many people and timeless. Subsequently I struggled to connect with the characters and found it hard to follow their stories in an enjoyable manner.
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Upon returning to the island of St. Vincent, Alexis finds himself exploring the stories of others who have left the Caribbean island and what became of them in the larger world. Exploring out the fates of others who have left the island makes this an interesting, enthralling read.
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The Windward Family is a fragmented memoir that infuses both non-fiction and fiction styles of writing. I sought to enjoy the experimental writing style.

This memoir is one of belonging, loss, and love of a family and their ancestry. I love the tenderness in the writing style. There is a uniqueness to this book and it’s very informative. Alexis takes us on a journey through the Caribbean to America. I enjoyed reading it.
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This multi-cultural, multi- generational story was, at times heartbreaking, but always stunning and beautiful, not just in the story itself but in the depictions of locales. Spanning from the early 1900s to the late 2010s, St. Vincent to New Zealand and more in between, It took a couple of chapters to get my head around the locations, times, and how the characters were connected, but it was well worth it.
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Thoughtful patchwork of Black diasporic life. Interweaving displacement, medical racism, enslavement, migration, barrel children, and homelessness with family love and care. Although the structure can feel a bit confusing as we jump around the different interweaving story, the payoff is touching. Weir manages to be empathetic and generous to people experiencing many different sides of being away from/parted from/left from family. 

Thanks to Netgalley for access to advance copies of the e-book and the audiobook.
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Alexis Keir returns from London to St Vincent after a gap of twenty years.  He remembers the trauma of being separated from is family but also hopes to recover old memories, family and friends.
He also starts looking at other stories of people who were born on St Vincent and who left either by choice or not..
This book tells the story of the community who left these islands for pastures new but who never forgot their roots.
Compelling reading
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I struggled with the structure of this book initially but familiarity with the characters sorted this out.  "Windward Family" is the story of some of the ancestors of Alexis Keir, plus a few other unrelated historic figures from St Vincent.  It is a tale of hard work being given priority to help the next generation, at the cost to the parents of a family life and seeing their children grow up.

While this book was interesting to read it would probably resonate more with readers of colour, especially those from the Caribbean. 

Thanks to Net Galley and the publishers for the opportunity to review this book.
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This memoir was clearly a labor of love by the author - to capture his sense of history, identity, people, and the place he came from - the island of St. Vincent. It was interesting to learn more about the land, history, culture, and food and visualize life on the island. I enjoyed the author’s quest tracing the history of a few who left St. Vincent in search of a better life and his experiences living in New Zealand. However, I found the structure of the book odd. The order of chapters felt random and jumped around people, places, and timelines, which made it disconcerting. And, I didn’t feel like the author’s writing conveyed the warmth and connectedness with his parents, his immediate family, or when he mentioned his girlfriends. For a book focused on love, loss, and belonging, I wish the feelings those words generate could have come through a lot stronger. All in all, still a good read for the sense of place of St. Vincent and the author’s quest of its history. Many thanks to the author, publisher, and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review this book.
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acting as the memoir of a black british family, alexis keir’s windward family gives a voice to his ancestors and those he feels a kinship to, told through this love letter to the caribbean island of st vincent where it all began, and the lost memories and journeys he discovers when meeting with the ghost of his past. 

belonging is the central theme here. a man wanting to belong to his family history connects us to them, and in doing so details the lives of one of the first black nurses on record to work in a london hospital, a child with vitiligo forced into the role of a showground attraction, a young footman in a stately home located in yorkshire, and the love story of his mother and a fellow man after she arrived in 1960s london as a student nurse. exploitation, love, and the bravery of those who left behind all they knew to be better and live better shine here thanks to the sheer beauty of keir’s prose and the love he has for those who came before him. in several locations: the caribbean, england, new zealand and america, we are taken through an incredible ancestry, allowing those forgotten to be placed into history forevermore.
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Emotional moving the author brings us into his life his families and others the history of the people of the Vincentian Diaspora ..At moments a difficult read an eye opening look at a world I am just learning about.A very special story by a talented author.#netgalley #threadbooks.
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Let me start by saying that memoirs are one of my top genres. I love reading about people's stories and deeply respect their ability and willingness to share them with the world. 

Windward family had two or three memorable essays in it for me. These essays really stood out to me because of their writing and the powerful messages of the stories - stories of heartache, abandonment, and home. Other than these few sections of the book, I was not engaged with the main narrative or the side characters in the story. 

The book jumps from past to future to past again and again, while not only following Keir's life but also others who have experienced similar life experiences at different times in history. Although it was a unique story structure that I hadn't read before, I found the insertion of other people's stories made it hard to follow. It didn't have a flow in the timeline or in the subject. The topics often changed between paragraphs in one essay. It felt choppy at times.

I had higher hopes for this memoir overall and I was disappointed. Nevertheless, I never regret reading someone's life story and I'm sure many people will benefit from his experiences. 

Thank you to Net Galley & Thread Books for an advanced reader copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
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Mixing memoir with historical biography, Windward Family charts the course of St Vincentian diaspora over the years through the lives of a few individuals. It's about place, identity and belonging, families both biological and found. It's a labour of love, and every word is heartfelt.

There are pockets of brilliance, but looking at the book as a whole, I struggled a little with the structure. The essays flit back and forth in time, sometimes covering the same themes and imagery; I wanted a stronger linear narrative to tie it all together. And while I loved the inclusion of the biographies, I found the fictive style they were written in jarring. It's a great premise, I just felt it needed a little more constructive editing to really tie it all together.
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