Lowe, the Chinese immigrant, is in his fifties–the owner of a small shop in an impoverished plantation village, and the guardian of a secret that is gradually revealed. Writing to a long-estranged daughter, Lowe tells her what happened during their years apart–a tale of exile from China, of estrangement from family, of shipboard adventures, of an unwanted pregnancy, of the arrangement that was made to avoid a possible scandal, of the three decades of living as man and wife with a light-skinned black woman named Sylvie. It is a story of the destruction of a world: the burning of Lowe’s shop. It describes Lowe’s dream of building a Pagoda–a school where Chinese workers might learn about their history and become a part of Jamaican life.
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