CHAPTERS OF HER LIFE: Any new release by enduring Jamaican author Erna Brodber is cause for celebration, so colour us happy to learn that her latest work, a novel titled Nothing's Mat, is slated to arrive in bookstores this month from the UWI Press, who published Olive Senior's historical epic Dying to Better Themselves to much acclaim a few months ago. At a modest 128 pages, Brodber's latest sounds like a pretty slim volume, but judging by the publisher's weighty description of the tale it chronicles, there's considerable heft within the seemingly tiny framework. Moving between the United Kingdom and Jamaica, Nothing's Mat follows Princess, a black British teenager whose education, both academic and sociological, awakens her to the ways of the world. Readers are also introduced to members of her immediate family (father, grandparents, cousins) who help shape Princess' coming-of-age experiences in profound and deeply meaningful ways. Then there's the family history that she painstakingly weaves into a special mat that becomes her shield against evil forces, spiritual and physical. Folklore, superstitions and healthy servings of fantasy-meets-magical realism, family dynamics and relationship arcs consistently play important roles in Brodber's work. (See Jane and Louisa Will Soon Come Home, Myal and The Rainmaker's Mistake.) By all accounts, a quixotic blend of these and other themes help connect the dots in Nothing's Mat, clearly a must-read new novel packaged as "a fictional family history and a comment on anthropological methodology and African systems of thought."