What's in a name? A lot, according to Caribbean-born Chastity, who has adopted the more fitting moniker Calamity. Now in her fifties, true to her name, Calamity is confronting two big life transitions: Her beloved father has just died, and she is starting menopause, a physical shift that has rekindled her special gift for finding lost things. Suddenly she is getting hot flashes that seem to forge objects out of thin air. Only this time, the lost item that has washed up on the shore is not her old toy truck or her hairbrush, but a 4-year-old boy. As Calamity takes the child into her care, she discovers that all is not as it seems: the boy's family is most unusual. Then Calamity must reawaken to the mysteries surrounding her own childhood and the early disappearance of her mother.
Although Hopkinson has invented Cayaba -- along with Blessée and Dolorosse, two smaller islands that play cameo roles -- The New Moon's Arms makes the most of the sea-meets-sand world of the author's own childhood. It's a pleasant place to hunker down for a while, and Calamity is good, salty company. She gets drunk, calls people names and manages to be a good soul despite it. On these islands, rumors of murder seem less real than rumors of mermaids. Even the local monk seals have a mystery about them, revealed in a folktale that intertwines, seaweed-like, with the main story.