“I knew in my heart that my life’s goals were not even formed, much less completed,” writes Marine E. Bryan in the early pages of her memoir, The Dark Lotus, a remarkable story of perseverance as one roadblock after another appeared and then fell in her quest for a better life.
Born in Jamaica and tagged early as a brilliant but willful child, Bryan made her way to the United States in her 20s with a still-unformed ambition and unwavering religious faith. She lived in desperate poverty, for a time undocumented, often without enough to eat and chronically uncertain lodging. She married but fled when it became intolerable, raised two daughters as a working single mother who went to school as she could. As the years passed, and through sheer will, she reached each rung of success until ultimately earning a PhD in business.
The elements of a truly great book are here. But unfortunately, as written, there is not nearly enough meat on the bone for the book to fulfill its promise. For example, Bryan writes of a difficult childhood: “I used to worry most days whether I would get beatings, not because I did anything wrong but because I had to live in my life for a community and people who did not like me and would cause a raucous of negative events.” No further details are offered. Similarly, she writes only in the vaguest terms of her marriage and divorce and her scramble to outrun poverty.
Despite her difficulties, Bryan’s prose feels surprisingly detached, as the narrative simply recites the chronology of events without recounting the stories behind them. To make a memoir come alive, it requires descriptive details of time and place, and a much fuller telling of pivotal moments.
Bryan has led a fascinating, inspirational life that readers will want to know about. Revision with an eye to fleshing out the narrative would greatly enhance this offering.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.