Friday, 22 December 2017

Sketcher by Roland Watson-Grant

Sketcher by Roland Watson-Grant
Published by Alma Books in May 2013.

Featured in WorldReads: Jamaica

How I got this book:
Borrowed the book from my partner

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Check for Sketcher at these bookstores:

The Book Depository
Amazon US / Amazon UK

Nine-year-old “Skid” Beaumont’s family is stuck in the mud. Following his father’s decision to relocate and build a new home, based on a drunken vision that New Orleans would rapidly expand eastwards into the wetlands as a result of the Seventies oil boom, Skid and his brothers grow up in a swampy area of Louisiana. But the constructions stop short, the dream fizzles out, and the Beaumonts find themselves sinking in a soggy corner of 1980s Cold War America.

As things on the home front get more complicated, Skid learns of his mother’s alleged magic powers and vaguely remembers some eerie stories surrounding his elder brother Frico. These, as well as early events that Skid saw with his own eyes, convince him that Frico has a gift to fix things by simply sketching them. For the next few years, Skid’s self-appointed mission to convince his brother to join him in his lofty plan to change their family’s luck and the world they live in will lead to even more mystery and high drama in the swamp.

Atmospheric, uplifting and deeply moving, Sketcher – Roland Watson-Grant’s stunning debut – is a novel about the beauty of life no matter how broken it is.

I didn't realise that Sketcher was intended for a young adult audience until I came to research this post about the novel. Watson-Grant's vision of the Beaumont family's life in the New Orleans swamps gives a vivid idea of the harsh conditions out there. I could easily imagine their one-roomed shack - still 'temporary' after more than a decade - and the necessity of community to survive. I thought this book reminiscent of Jesmyn Ward's Salvage The Bones, but without anywhere near as much of the gritty horror of that novel.

Sketcher is actually written from the point of view of the artist's younger brother, nine year old Skid. Skid believes in magic, especially that his brother can draw their way out of trouble and also that his mother has brought her obeah powers with her from her native island of San Taino. I wasn't always convinced by the way in which the magical occurrences were integrated into the story. There is an environmental anti-fracking storyline as well which I liked in its own right, but I felt the various narratives sometimes felt too forced together.

For an illustration of non-traditional American life, especially for younger readers, Sketcher is a good book to pick up. Personally I am not sure that I will go on to read its sequel though.

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Roland Watson-Grant / Young adult fiction / Books from Jamaica


  1. Interesting that you didn't even realise it was a young adult book while reading it! I think the idea of sketching as a way of being able to fix things sounds interesting! I've never heard of it before. It sounds like a decent book.

    1. I only found it because my OH had bought it for himself. He likes New Orleans stories. I spotted Jamaican author so wanted to add it to my WorldReads!