If You Save Me by Trinidad and Tobago born and Johannesburg based author Lisa-Anne Julien is a family drama that spans continents. The novel was published by South Africa-based Kwela Books in July 2021, though early versions of the work came out of Julien’s participation in FEMRITE, a women’s writing organization based in Uganda.
If You Save Me follows the stories of five different characters, four men and one girl, across three countries—South Africa, the UK, and Trinidad and Tobago. Some of the storylines intersect with each other, while others run parallel. The main storyline follows Dr. Carl Kleinhans based in London. He faces the dilemma of performing a groundbreaking, but risky, liver transplant that involves Joel an alcoholic and his estranged son Ché. Ché’s mother who lives in Trinidad has to see her son risk his life for his father, a man with whom she has had a difficulty past. There is Promise, a girl in South Africa who provides glimpses into the lives of certain characters. What connects these characters as they crash into one another are themes about betrayal, sacrifice, difficult moral choices, as well as the possibility for healing.
It takes a while to pull all the threads of the story together, but then the story does draw you in. This speaks to Julien’s strength as a storyteller. She sets up a narrative arc where what starts out as complicated becomes deeply rewarding. In a piece published in Sunday Times, Julien describes the early writing process and the questions she sought to explore.
The idea for the novel was conceived at a Femrite Women’s Writing Fellowship in Uganda some years ago. It was there I had discussions with award-winning writers Doreen Baingana and Zukiswa Wanner about legitimacy and credibility. The conundrum of living here but being from there and writing from … where?
Her interest in the multiple dimensions of self and experience evoke her wide range of global experiences. She was born in Trigidad and Togabo, moved to New York to studied dance, then to London to pursue a Bachelors and Masters degree, and finally to South Africa, where she resides presently.
In some ways, If You Save Me channels this complex relationship to space and identity through characters who are faced with complicated dilemmas.
Buy If You Save Me: Amazon