Pain Tree, The

ISBN 9781770864344 | 5.5″ x 8.5″ | TPB | $22.95

Category: Short Story Collections





Olive Senior’s new collection of stories, The Pain Tree, is wide-ranging in scope, time period, theme, locale, and voice. There is — along with her characteristic “gossipy voice” — reverence, wit and wisdom, satire, humour, and even farce. The stories range over at most a hundred years, from around the time of the second world war to the present. Like her earlier stories, Jamaica is the setting but the range of characters presented are universally recognisable as people in crisis or on the cusp of transformation.

While most of the stories operate within a realist mode, Senior also exploits traditional motifs. Collected here are revenge stories (“The Goodness of my Heart”), a bargain with the Devil (“Boxed-in”), a Cinderella story (“The Country Cousin”), a magical realist interpretation of African spiritual beliefs (“Flying”) and a narrator’s belated acceptance of the healing power of traditional beliefs (“The Pain Tree”). “Coal” is a realist story set in the war years and depression that followed as folks try to find a new place in the world. Senior’s trademark children awakening to self-awareness and to the hypocrisy of adults are here too, from the heartbreaking “Moonlight” and “Silent” to the girls in “Lollipop” and “A Father Like That” who learn to confront loneliness and vulnerability with attitude.



Winner of the 2016 OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature


“At every level of her stories’ constructions, Senior works deftly … dealing with open palms in the deep wells of remembrance, ancestry and a crosshatch of colonising scars, this fiction looks face-upwards to the mountains of multiple Jamaicas for hope, home and daily bread.”
The Trinidad Guardian

“The magic of Olive Senior’s stories is that they weather time with uncommon power. In these collected short fictions, published and broadcast in various incarnations from the 1990s forward, the concerns of class, language, identity, and refuge reign, explored in prose that is all the more commanding for its subtle navigations.”
Caribbean Beat

“[Senior’s] prose is supple and ornate … there is technique aplenty.”
Quill & Quire

“[Its] voices are authentic – a variety of rhythms and cadences appear on the page – and Olive Senior pulls readers into quiet moments of transformation with considerable emotional intensity. Like Alice Munro’s stories, some are remarkably complex structurally … like Mavis Gallant’s short stories, these combine the engaged eye of a resident with the distanced eye of an observer … I read The Pain Tree twice (yes, twice!)”
Buried in Print

“We read these stories fully expecting that we will meet our real selves along the way. We are not disappointed.”
– Rachel Manley, author of Drumblair and Slipstream


Book Club Guide


About the Author

Senior, Olive - is the prize-winning author of a dozen books of fiction, poetry and non-fiction. Her short story collection Summer Lightning (Longman, 1986) won the inaugural Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best Book. (read more)

Books by the Author

Dancing Lessons - Olive Senior
ISBN 9781770860476 | 5.25" x 8" | TPB | $22

Finalist for the 2012 First Novel Award
Finalist for the 2012 Commonwealth Writers Prize

When her house in the Jamaican countryside is damaged by a hurricane, an elderly woman is sent to an assisted living centre, where she begins to record her life in a notebook: memories of her gothic childhood, impetuous marriage, and struggles with raising a family. (read more)
Pain Tree, The - Olive Senior
ISBN 9781770864344 | 5.5" x 8.5" | TPB | $22.95

Winner of the 2016 OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature

Ranging widely in scope, time period, theme, locale, and voice, The Pain Tree is a powerful and engaging new collection of stories set in Jamaica, from Commonwealth Writers' Prize-winning author Olive Senior. (read more)