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The Warmest December

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4.15  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,590 Ratings  ·  122 Reviews
Sugar, Bernice L. McFadden's bestselling debut novel, was hailed by critics and fellow authors alike. Ebony called it "unforgettable . . . unique . . . a haunting story that keeps the pages turning until the end." Terry McMillan praised it as "one of the most compelling and thought-provoking novels I've read in years." Now this Blackboard award-winning author returns to th ...more
eBook, 256 pages
Published December 31st 2002 by Plume Books (first published January 1st 2001)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Beth F.
This was a painful and heartbreaking story to read. Kenzie Lowe is a grown woman who is holding a bedside vigil for her dying father. Her father had been an alcoholic for his entire life. And when Hy-Lo drank, he became dangerous and violent, preying on Kenzie, her mother and her younger brother. Eventually, Kenzie and her mother both start drinking as a means to cope with the pain and Kenzie finds herself struggling for much of her adult life with alcoholism, holding down a steady job and blami ...more
guiltlessreader
Amazing. AMAZING. AMAZZZING!! (I'm still in a bit of a shock over this one. Yes, it was amazing.
----
Originally post on my blog guiltless reading

The choice to forgive is yours.

The book in one sentence: A young woman strives to make sense of a life touched by alcoholism and abuse.

My two cents: This is one of those books that you don't really know what to expect ... and come away feeling that you got more than you bargained for. In an astounding way. I have never read any of McFadden's work, I ha
...more
Nenette
Jan 11, 2013 Nenette rated it it was amazing
You know how there is one trait, or habit, or attitude that we hate about our parents, then we vow to ourselves that we will never be like them? And later on, are you self-conscious enough to recognize your parents in your speech, actions, decisions? When this happens, do you think that you could have done better, having vowed many years ago that you will never be like your mother and/or father.

I had thought this book was a novel about Christmas, but I was so wrong. It relates the story of Kenzi
...more
Katwanya
Jun 15, 2012 Katwanya rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this book 10 years ago and I can still remember how my blood boiled hot from anger while reading it. It is a riveting and powerful story about abuse, alcoholism, and the amazing will to forgive your tormentor. In this case Kenzie struggles with the fact that her father who plague her, her mother, and brother with years of abuse--and he is now dying. She has also succumb to alcoholism losing her lover, job, and is on welfare. She sits at his side while remembering the past and all his abus ...more
Shonell Bacon
Jun 06, 2008 Shonell Bacon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Raw and painful - beautiful writing.
Sally
Sep 07, 2013 Sally rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013-challenge
On the one hand, I loved this book. One another hand I despised it. The author wrote a work of fiction that reads like a heart wrenching memoir. You want to turn away due to the insane violence that rages through Kenzie's household, but you can't. You want to reach in and collect these children from their dysfuncional-beyond-all-belief home, but again - you can't.

The cycle of alcoholism and abuse is rampant. Bring into it the generational component in which children do what is modeled for them.
...more
Cassandra Hawkins Wilder
"The Warmest December" was a book filled with pain. The prevalence of emotional, mental, physical abuse swallowed the plot of this book. The predictable uncertain cycles, living in abuse, bearing down on the victims, is amazingly portrayed in this book. McFadden illustrates how from one generation to the next the abuse keeps going and the bottles keep being the soother of the pain. The surreal pain present makes you feel sorry, makes you cringe, makes you shake your head, makes you want to help, ...more
Rosalind
Aug 12, 2012 Rosalind rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a very difficult read because of the things that happened in apartment 5A. I had to chunk my reading of this because it was sometimes too much to take at one seating. So, I'd read some, put the book away and marinate on what I'd read, and then go back and read more. I also was very upset with Kenzie's mother for staying to deal with the things. But I absolutely love the way Bernice McFadden allowed us to see the unraveling of Kenzie's character and who she became as a result of all she ...more
Marlene Banks
A realistic and dark tale of alcoholism, abuse and the generational fall out as a result. Well written but there was no relief from the negative and sometimes horrifying first person narrative. It may be the truth for those living in that kind of misery but it was not a good reading experience for me.
Winter Sophia Rose
Spellbinding, Gripping, Emotional, Riveting & Encouraging! A Powerful Story! I Loved It!
Jamie
Jun 15, 2013 Jamie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is simply amazing, and I am very thankful I stumbled upon it in the library. Its a poignant look inside the lives of a family living with an alcoholic and abusive father, who strikes his children as often as his wife. The writing is beautiful - I could picture Hy-lo's smug grins in my mind perfectly, making my blood boil in anger along with his children and wife's. I hope that more people stumble across this book - very, very good.
Tracy
Mar 25, 2014 Tracy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This one was a hard read in that it was extremely painful, and at times I wanted to stop reading. While this was a work of fiction it felt like I was getting a glimpse into the life of an alcoholic. What also added to the sense of realism, was the setting. The Brooklyn landmarks and neighborhoods intensifies the despair and longing of its characters. It felt as if I were right back on the blocks, avenues, blvds, and streets which were as tough as they were nurturing - nurturers of survivors.

The
...more
Brooke Blackwell
This was a great book, it opened my eyes to how hard life can be for family and children. And it challenged me to open my eyes to the trickle effect which occurs in many lives. This is a must read.
Erica L
Nov 20, 2015 Erica L rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This writer is so talented. So happy I read this book! Niceness!
Magda
Jan 06, 2016 Magda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Rating: 3,5
Nicole
Apr 09, 2015 Nicole rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I saw myself, in some ways, while reading this book and that's why it was hard for me to push it away and just be okay with it being a part of my book collection. But, it was that connection to Kenzie as a child living with an abusive father that propelled me to keep reading...keep on reading. I would not suggest someone read this book while in throes of abuse as the all too familiar reality of a woman staying with a man who beats her beyond recognition in some cases would feel like she should s ...more
Roy
Violent alcoholics beget violent alcoholics beget... Pretty much everybody in this beautifully written novel is in agony. They are each perpetrators and victims, the tormentors and the ones suffering from a brutal disease. The cycle appears to be endless, but Kenzie is fighting to break the pattern. This novel, which is told from her point of view, is filled with unfathomable cruelty that it seems nobody would be foolish enough to stick around and take. Surely fleeing for their lives is an optio ...more
M R
Apr 06, 2015 M R rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a tragic story. There were moments that were so overwhelming and I wanted to put the book down but keep reading at the same time. There are moments that just took my breath away and shook me to my core. My heart ached for Kenzie, Malcolm and Delia. Bernice L. McFadden writes with a searing honesty and poignancy that leaves you breathless. This is the most heart breaking I've ever read. I felt everything the characters felt as if it were happening to me. This book has given me a new perspect ...more
Robbin
Oct 21, 2012 Robbin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Not for the faint of heart, this book is about Kenzie, a woman with many memories and little time to reconcile them. Holding vigil at the side of Hy-Lo, her father, as he lies dying in a hospital bed, Kenzie's memory is filled with the horrific abuse she, her brother and mother suffered at Hy-Lo's hands. All her life, Kenzie always wished her father would die, but not that time is upon him and Kenzie is not quite ready to let him go. In the 13th hour, however, Kenzie learns why her father was an ...more
Ariel Uppstrom
Jan 27, 2016 Ariel Uppstrom rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really liked how the author captured the difficulty of growing up in an abusive home and the struggle not to follow that expectation in your own life. I also think she did a good job making the reader struggle to understand her reasons for wanting to be at her father's deathbed when he'd been a horrible human being. She wanted us to feel uncomfortable and unclear about her reasons just like the character did until she realized her motives. Overall, really honest and interesting.
Doriana Bisegna
Nov 28, 2013 Doriana Bisegna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This novel of a dysfunctional family in Brooklyn, New York in the 60's and 70's is compelling, heartbreaking and tough to read. Kenzie Lowe thinks back on her childhood with an alcoholic, abusive father, a beat up Mom and her defenseless little brother Malcolm. She does this while sitting by her dying father's bedside and tries to make sense of what her life has been and become until now. As Toni Morrison says about this novel "Searing and Expertly Imagined" and I couldn't say it any better than ...more
J
(FROM JACKET)For Kenzie, growing up in the Lowe home means opening the bottom drawer of her father's dresser to choose which belt she'll be whipped with that night, furtive trips to the Bee Hive liquor store for her father's vodka, and dreaming of the day she can escape apartment A5.
Buoyed by the lyrical, redemptive voice that distinguished Bernice L. McFadden's earlier novel, "The Warmest December" tells the powerful, deeply moving story of one family and the alcoholism and abuse that marked al
...more
Catherine Shattuck
I spent an afternoon and evening tightly coiled around this story. At first, I wasn't sure I wanted to read it; I had just finished a gruesome book about addiction, but after only a few paragraphs I couldn't put it down. It wasn't easy to witness the terror and hatred this young girl felt for her vindictive and abusive father, and yet there were glimpses of the man he had been, someone not only full of rage and ugliness but also of fear and need and self-loathing. More than anything, it made me ...more
Brenda
Jul 04, 2012 Brenda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have read many of McFadden's books, but this one had such a different feel to it. I was drawn in the first page. The descriptive manner in which she provides allows one to feel as if they were present in the very room with the characters. It opens the viewer to the mind of a child who is suffering abuse by the very one who is suppose to be the protector. The vicious cycle of life that one generation passes on down to another. I cried my eyes out a moments in this book. It is on my shelf as one ...more
LaKesha
Oct 28, 2014 LaKesha rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Cheers to McFadden for The Warmest December. This chilling account of how alcoholism had a tight grip on the Lowe family is deep and detailed. This story will probably remain in my memory bank for years to come. I felt like a fly on the wall, wanting to save each family member one by one. McFadden is a phenomenal storyteller, a literary genius! By the end of the story, it's difficult to hate Hy-Lo, given his past. I found myself savoring this novel, down to the very last page. I'm highly impress ...more
Lester
Jun 29, 2015 Lester rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The circle and cycle of life.
I can understand why Toni Morrison gave such a good review of this book.
Thank you Bernice L. McFadden for this good, but very disturbing story of life.
RenishaRenewed
I've read two books of hers within the last 7 days and I am now addicted. I definitely plan to read all she has to offer. My goodness, this book was a page-turner. Extremely emotional. I felt so bad for Kenzie and her situation. Bernice makes you sympathize with each and every character that's introduced. No one is left behind. It was brilliant. Can't wait to read her other books.
Jill
Oct 25, 2014 Jill rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'd actually give this 4 1/2 stars if I could. This was such a horrifying, dark story of domestic violence that it was, at times, very difficult to read, and I found myself actually having to put it down for a time before I could come back to it. There was such raw truth in the telling that you have to wonder how close to home this novel is for the author.
Debbie
Oct 16, 2014 Debbie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Tragic story; very difficult to read. Beautifully written view into the life of a family plagued by generations of abuse and alcoholism.
Antoinette
Jan 01, 2013 Antoinette rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
this isn't the type of book I'd usually read but I was in the mood for something different and ended up really liking this. it is heartbreaking and captivating to follow the story of Kenzie, growing up the daughter of s long line of abusive alcoholics...but there is an underlying tone of forgiveness that keeps you reading.
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BERNICE L. McFADDEN is the author of nine critically acclaimed novels including Sugar, Loving Donovan, Nowhere Is a Place, The Warmest December, Gathering of Waters (a New York Times Editors’ Choice and one of the 100 Notable Books of 2012), and Glorious, which was featured in O, The Oprah Magazine and was a finalist for the NAACP Image Award. She is a three-time Hurston/Wright Legacy Award finali ...more
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