Redemption in Indigo

Karen Lord  - published July 2010

July 2010 | Trade paper · 9781931520669 | ebook · 9781931520959 | audiobook · 200 pp

Carl Brandon Parallax award winner · Mythopoeic Award winner · Crawford Award winner · Frank Collymore Award winner
World Fantasy Award finalist
Longlisted for the OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature
Shortlisted for the Guyana Prize for Literature

Karen Lord’s debut novel is an intricately woven tale of adventure, magic, and the power of the human spirit. Paama’s husband is a fool and a glutton. Bad enough that he followed her to her parents’ home in the village of Makendha—now he’s disgraced himself by murdering livestock and stealing corn. When Paama leaves him for good, she attracts the attention of the undying ones—the djombi— who present her with a gift: the Chaos Stick, which allows her to manipulate the subtle forces of the world. Unfortunately, a wrathful djombi with indigo skin believes this power should be his and his alone.

Bursting with humor and rich in fantastic detail, Redemption in Indigo is a clever, contemporary fairy tale that introduces readers to a dynamic new voice in Caribbean literature. Lord’s world of spider tricksters and indigo immortals is inspired in part by a Senegalese folk tale—but Paama’s adventures are fresh, surprising, and utterly original.


World SF Blog interview by Chesya Burke · Locus Magazine · Notes from Coode Street podcast


Locus: Recommended Reading · Best of the Year

“Filled with witty asides, trickster spiders, poets and one very wise woman, “Redemption in Indigo” is a rare find that you could hand to your child, your mother or your best friend.”
Washington Post

“The perfect antidote to the formula fantasies currently flooding the market…. Précis fails to do justice to the novel’s depth, beauty and elegant simplicity. Written from the point of view of an omniscient storyteller in the style of an oral narrative, this is a subtle, wise and playful meditation on life and fate.”
The Guardian

“A clever, exuberant mix of Caribbean and Senegalese influences that balances riotously funny set pieces (many involving talking insects) with serious drama initiated by meddlesome supernatural beings.”
New York Times

“Lord offers us something vastly unlike the usual cliché-ridden accounts of mortals chosen to exercise enormous power. Redemption in Indigo mentally refreshes readers jaded by Joseph Campbell’s notorious monomyth. The characters of Paama, Ansige, and the indigo-skinned djombi, whose redemption provides the book’s title, help us to enjoy all marginal people’s quests and adventures, in the same way that learning to appreciate one dish from an unfamiliar cuisine helps us to appreciate many others.”
— Nisi Shawl,

“Lord’s novel is very sprightly from start to finish, with vivid descriptions, memorable heroes and villains, brisk pacing — and an “authorised” epilogue that raises goosebumps along with expectations for a sequel. Iffy or not, that’s clever storytelling.”
Caribbean Review of Books

—Read the Introduction and first chapter on
—Karen writes about Paama’s origins for Scalzi’s Big Idea.
—Karen blogged for one of our favorite bookstores, Powell’ Listening to stories. Making a book trailer. Cake! Authenticity. The Muse.
A report on the book launch in Barbados.
—Audio edition available from Recorded Books.
—Available in the UK from Jo Fletcher Books/Quercus

“Full of sharp insights and humorous asides (“I know your complaint already. You are saying, how do two grown men begin to see talking spiders after only three glasses of spice spirit?”), Redemption extends the Caribbean Island storyteller’s art into the 21st century and hopefully, beyond.”
Seattle Times

“There’s never a doubt we’re in the hands of a contemporary taleteller with a voice both insouciant and respectful of its sources, and it’s a voice we’d like to hear more from. Redemption in Indigo is wise, funny, and very promising.”
—Gary K. Wolfe, Locus

“The seamless weaving of fantasy, folklore, and science creates a speculative text that is diasporic in its dimensions. Most compelling, however, is Lord’s ability to bring the past, present, and future of diasporic narrative together in a way that is not stereotypically timeless but instead innovatively time conscious.”
—Alisa K. Braithwaite, Small Axe

Redemption in Indigo is a brilliant little gem of a novel, as close to perfect as storytelling can be. It is hard to believe that such an intricate tale could be told in just about 200 pages. It is even harder to believe that this is Karen Lord’s debut given how self-assured the narrative is. But it is extremely easy to see how this book has earned such well-deserved admiration, mine included.”
The Book Smugglers

“As I read the first pages of Karen Lord’s slim debut novel Redemption in Indigo, I knew I wouldn’t put the book down until the story was finished. A modern retelling of a Senegalese legend, the book is both modern and mystical. There is magic in these pages, both in the story and Lord’s flowing prose. Her narrator is humble, articulate, and wise, and Redemption in Indigo is yet another skillfully told fairy tale (of several this year) that truly transports the reader to another world where spirits take the shape of men and alter lives for better and for worse.”

Redemption in Indigo is a quick, engaging read, and I expect that most readers will find it a fresh addition to the genre. I’ll certainly be looking forward to Karen Lord’s future books. Should she choose to revisit these characters in particular, I know I’d enjoy it very much.”
BSC Review

“What if Paradise Lost were recast in an African setting, its themes of rebellion, disobedience, greed, innocence lost, and redemption intact, its trickster characters both earthly and heavenly also intact, but its storyline adjusted to suit a more contemporary audience and adjusted to avoid having the young (or older) skeptic call it a fairy tale?
“Karen Lord’s first novel is unique, warm, funny, and smart, and her speculative imaginings should awaken every fantasy fan’s sense of wonder. It might not make it to a bestseller list, but given time, it might be found on a list of hidden gems—as might whatever Lord writes next.”
Reflection’s Edge

“A great deal happens in the novel’s relatively short course, but confusion is minimal because Lord has found the ideal voice for the narrator—feminine yet authoritative, amusing yet soothing, omniscient yet humble. This is one of those literary works of which it can be said that not a word should be changed.”
Booklist *Starred Review*

“Lord’s debut, a retelling of a Senegalese folktale, packs a great deal of subtly alluring storytelling into this small package…. An unnamed narrator, sometimes serious and often mischievous, spins delicate but powerful descriptions of locations, emotions, and the protagonists’ great flaws and great strengths as they interact with family, poets, tricksters, sufferers of tragedy, and—of course—occasional moments of pure chaos.”
Publishers Weekly *Starred Review*

“The impish love child of Tutuola and Garcia Marquez. Utterly delightful.”
—Nalo Hopkinson (Brown Girl in the Ring)

“Adventure, mystery, familial relations, discourse of power, ananse, the spirit world—a difficult mix/transition between conventional ‘plot’/narrative and magical realism—between cooking and xtreme lyric—beyond the boundary of what we conventionally/conveniently think of as ‘Bajam’, as ‘West Indian writing’, but part of and contribution to the ‘new generation’ of Caribbean imprint, pioneered by Lawrence Scott (TT/UK), in development now by Nalo Hopkinson (Guyana/Canada), (Marina Warner’s Indigo too?) and being incremented on/to by this challenging first novel by prize-winning Karen Lord of Barbados.”
—Kamau Brathwaite (Born to Slow Horses)

“Drawing on a multicultural mélange of narrative traditions—both oral and written—this Barbadian author surprises. She tap dances across the conventional, using it to make spirited sounds. She twists out of tired modes: “Once upon a time—but whether a time that was, or a time that is, or a time that is to come, I may not tell.” Then, Lord ends the tale by challenging “those who utterly, utterly fear the dreaded Moral of the Story.” Expect a work that can revive this and other exhausted elements of story.”
Foreword Reviews

“A book that I consider a classic and everyone should read.”
— Tobias S. Buckell

“If you haven’t read Redemption in Indigo, now’s the time.”
— Kate Elliott

“Read and loved REDEMPTION IN INDIGO by Karen Lord. Can’t wait to read THE GALAXY GAME by Karen Lord, who I will read frankly anything by.”
— Kate Milford, author of The Greenglass House

— Max Gladstone

“This book flat-out blew me away.”
— Jim C. Hines

Karen Lord was born in Barbados in 1968 and decided to explore the world. After completing a science degree at the University of Toronto, she realised that the course she had enjoyed most was History of the English Language. Several degrees, jobs, countries, and years later, she had taught physics, trained soldiers, worked in the Foreign Service, and gained a PhD in sociology of religion. She writes fiction to balance the nonfiction she produces as an academic and research consultant. She lives in Barbados and now uses the internet to explore the world, which is cheaper.

Author photo © Risée N. C. Chaderton.
Cover photo © Corbis.

First Printing: July 6, 2010
Second Printing: December 2010
Third Printing: April 2013


Sept. 10, 2010:
Reading with Julia Holmes
McNally Jackson Books
52 Prince Street, New York, NY

Sept. 12: 2 PM,
Karen read at the Brooklyn Book Festival and signed books at the Small Beer Press table.
Brooklyn Borough Hall
209 Joralemon Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201

Sept. 14: Reading with Julia Holmes (Meeks)
Greenlight Bookstore
686 Fulton Street
Brooklyn, NY

Online Event
September 24, 2020, 7:30 p.m. EST
Pre-register for the inaugural event of the Strange Light Reading Series hosted by Alexandra Manglis & Yvette Ndlovu with Karen Lord (Redemption in Indigo 10-year anniversary reading) & Tessa Gratton (Night Shine)