At ten, Melody Sparks, better known as Baby Girl, is excited to move to the tropical island of Trinidad with her single-parent dad, but she silently longs for her mother, a woman she can’t recall ever meeting and doesn’t have a photo of. She fits in to her new life in Paradise Lane quite well: she loves her school and makes new friends. However, her longing for blood family remains strong. But Baby Girl is suddenly and unexpectedly uprooted from her comfortable life in Paradise Lane by and forced to reside in Flat Hill Village, a depressed, crime-ridden community. She struggles to adjust to life in this village with the help of new friends, Arlie, a village activist and Colm, a young man who mentors her to write poetry. When Baby Girl witnesses a serious crime, her father insists she move in with relatives she doesn’t know very well, where she ultimately uncovers the truth about her mother. Under the Zaboca Tree is a contemporary coming of age novel that explores multiple issues including the challenges of being a motherless adolescent, searching for one’s identity, the unbreakable bonds of family, and the ability to adapt to difficult situations.
Glynis Guevara was born in Barataria, Trinidad. She holds a Bachelor of Laws (Hons.) degree from the University of London, England, and is a graduate of Humber School for Writers creative writing program. She was shortlisted for the Small Axe Literary short fiction prize in 2012 and was also a finalist for the inaugural Burt Award for Caribbean literature in 2014. She currently lives in Toronto where she works as an adult literacy and ESL instructor.
“I really want your life to turn out better than mine.” Dad
squeezed my hand. “When you’re all grown up, you can return
to Canada to live.”
“I’m not, Dad.” I frowned. “I’m not going back there without
“I swear I’ll never leave you. I promise I’ll do everything I
can to give you a much better life than I’ve had.” Dad’s fingers
circled my back.
Moments later, Dad pulled a magazine from his pouch and
began to flip through its glossy pages.
“Can we look at the family pictures?” I suddenly said, but
Dad continued flipping through the magazine, ignoring me
“Pleeeease.” I made a face.
“They’re in the overhead compartment.” He hesitated for a
moment before fishing out two crumpled brown envelopes from
his bag.“I used to enjoy looking at these pictures when I was a
boy.” He pressed both envelopes against his chest.
“Dad,” I said, grinning, “you say the same thing every time
we look at them.”
He handed me a stack of dog-eared photos from the envelope
on top. I examined a tattered picture of Dad and Howie, standing
under a sprawling tree with bunches of dangling, pear-shaped
green fruits. They were dressed in matching light-blue outfits,
almost the same colour as the sky behind them. “This was indeed
a special tree Mom used to rock us under when we were tots.”
“What kind is it?”
“It’s called avocado, but they’re sometimes called ‘zaboca’
“Zaboca’s a funny word.” I chuckled loudly, covering my
mouth with one hand.
“Don’t you worry, I’m sure you’ll learn many more amusing
words after we get there.”