Review: The Haunted Tropics: Caribbean Ghost Stories

By Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Munro, Martin, ed. The Haunted Tropics: Caribbean Ghost Stories.. The University of West Indies Press (2015).

In his introduction to The Haunted Tropics: Caribbean Ghost Stories, editor Martin Munro says, “Every island of the Caribbean is the site of a deep haunting.” The anthology proves this point by offering a variety of stories which are at turns disturbing, creepy and sad.

Readers who are in search of a horror anthology should be warned that not every tale is a horror story, in the sense of a monster jumping out from under the bed or a ghost throwing stuff around. There is a general sense of quietness, of a dreamy haze, throughout the book. This means that although most of the stories are short, it is not a good idea to read this in one sitting.

Languid, this book is languid, and yes, haunted.

For readers of horror and speculative fiction, the list of contributors may seem alien. The writers are best known in literary circles and include Maryse Condé, Earl Lovelace and Geoffrey Philp. Condé, a Guadeloupean author of historical fiction, best known for her novel Segu, opens the anthology and has one of the strongest pieces in the whole book, the tale of a man who brings the woman he desires back from the dead. Other notable stories include “Blue Crabs,” which ties together the idea of the shapeshifting lagahoo with male violence, both psychological and physical, and “Awakening,” with its mention of the tatagua, the butterfly witch that reminds mothers to never abandon their children.

Sometimes, people ask why there is a need for anthologies with restricted cultural or geographic boundaries. While some projects may seem too narrow or the final result may be disparate (how do you make a ‘diversity’ anthology diverse while maintaining some cohesion?), The Haunted Tropics is one of the strongest examples of a narrow showcase I’ve seen in a while. It succeeds by threading together in an invisible way every tale, so that it seems like all these stories should sit comfortably side by side.

The only thing I regret is that I was not able to read this when it came out in 2015 and thus, I wasn’t able to nominate it for anything, but if, like me, you are just discovering the tome, I suggest you give it a try.

Recommended for: Fans of quiet horror, Gothic lovers, those with an interest in Caribbean culture, people who appreciate a literary tone.