This is the first time I've read a book by this author, and I read it at the recommendation of someone who has given me some bum book advice in the pa...more This is the first time I've read a book by this author, and I read it at the recommendation of someone who has given me some bum book advice in the past . . . but was I in for a surprise!
See Me was well-written, well-paced, very visual, and has intriguing plot twists. It was one of the most original stories that I've read in a very long time, and I think it's a shame that more people don't know about it.
The protagonist is Olivia Moy, a middle-aged widow whose late husband was a world-renowned writer with a cult following that continues to worship him. When she is approached by a university dean -- a colleague and friend of her grown son -- to assist in a biography of her husband, she struggles on how much should she divulge.
Does she protect the public image and legacy of the late husband? Or does she finally open up and let the world gleam insight into his darker side -- and in doing so rid herself of the demons that have haunted her?
I beseech you to read this book, and then spread the word. This book worthy of much acclaim and attention than it has so far received. (less)
It's strange that so many of the reviewers here have said the same thing, but I -- too-- read this book when I was probably much too young to do so. I...more It's strange that so many of the reviewers here have said the same thing, but I -- too-- read this book when I was probably much too young to do so. I was 12, and I remember the book not scaring me, but definitely intriguing me.
I re-read it a few years ago and found that it was better as a memory.
Still, I have to give it five stars because of the impression it first left.
She's an old Asian woman who lives by routine - making weekly visits to the store, to the laundry, doing what old women do.
Most important, she goes to...more She's an old Asian woman who lives by routine - making weekly visits to the store, to the laundry, doing what old women do.
Most important, she goes to the archive section of the library every Saturday to visit the book - the book that contained her photograph, surrounded by a story filled with lies but that revealed one truth: She can communicate with ghosts. Then, one Saturday she finds the book she's been quietly visiting for decades has been vandalized. Most of the pages have been torn out. In the photograph, her head has been blackened out with marker. A feeling of dread descends upon her - someone, she decides, is trying to erase her life.
As she slowly makes her way back to her apartment, she sees two crows collide and then plummet to the ground. That, she decides, can't be good. Later that evening, she receives a telephone call from a woman who identifies herself as a university professor writing a book on "superstition in 20th-century Asia," and asking for an interview. The professor punctuates her request with an ominous statement: "Someone - and this person or persons must really be obsessed - has been cutting you out of history."
The old woman hangs up, deciding she will not let herself be wiped out. "I will not become a ghost."
The Black Isle, the debut novel of Sandi Tan, tells the story of Ling, born to a middle-class family in 1922 Shanghai. She has a twin brother, Li, and a set of younger twin sisters. Ling's mother is agoraphobic, and her father is a quiet, hen-pecked schoolteacher.
She sees her first ghost when she's 7 - one of her mother's former housemaids who killed herself when Ling was an infant. The uproar created when she lets the household know about her vision leads her to vow not to mention her spiritual abilities again.
Shortly afterward, the family's fortunes take a drastic turn for the worse. The Great Depression that followed the 1929 American stock market crash makes its way around the world, and Shanghai is not spared. The family's savings are erased and the family patriarch loses his job. The only thing to do, the parents decide, is for the father to travel to the Black Isle to work and send his salary back to support the homestead. It is also decided that Ling and Li will accompany their father.
And it is while living in the Black Isle - actually, a band of tropical islands in the South Seas - that Ling's spiritual powers seem to go wild. She sees ghosts everywhere and spends most of her time trying to ignore their questions regarding their deaths or the whereabouts of their loved ones. At one point, her father becomes the caretaker of a rubber plantation that is not only filled with ghosts that Ling alone can see, but that is supposedly haunted by pontianaks - spirits of women who die in childbirth. When a pontianak attacks Ling's family, she decapitates the supposedly mythical creature after it kills a visitor.
Shortly after, Ling separates from her brother and father and finds employment as a companion for the rich Wee family. World II looms, and the Japanese invasion and occupation of the Black Isle forever changes Ling's life - and she becomes an important part of the Black Isle's history. Her contribution is so important the few who know about her role realize the Black Isle might never have made it into the 21st century without Ling's help. So why would someone want her removed from the history books?
Beautifully written, with a storyline that spans 70 years, The Black Isle is a historical novel that is both breathtaking and haunting. The characters are vivid - some simply charming, some horrifyingly scary - and the plot has so many twists and turns it seems as though you're reading a winding country road.
There are some plot points, however, that some might find a bit more than controversial, including a somewhat incestuous relationship and an incident of bestiality that, to be honest, is so mind boggling it's hard to believe. And because the episode did nothing to move the plot forward, it probably would have been best to simply excise it from the story.
Minor flaws notwithstanding, The Black Isle is an engaging and engrossing novel that will absolutely captivate you and should not be missed. It will take you on a journey you will not soon forget. (less)
Money. No, I’m not talking about the greenbacks in your wallet. I’m talking about Money, Mississippi – a small town in the northwestern tip of Mississ...moreMoney. No, I’m not talking about the greenbacks in your wallet. I’m talking about Money, Mississippi – a small town in the northwestern tip of Mississippi. A small town which is holds a tragic place in the annals of Civil Rights. The small town in Mississippi where 14-year-old African boy named Emmett Till was brutally murdered. Also the small town which is the main character for nationally best-selling author Bernice McFadden’s latest book – Gathering of Waters. The town is the narrator in this captivating novel, and details the horrific events that transpired there. Because, according to McFadden’s novel, all things – not just those breathing – possess a soul. And you did read correctly. Though the real-life Emmett Till is a main character in Gathering of Waters, this is not a biography, it is a novel. And it can’t really even be considered an historical novel, but a haunting novel that weaves a fictional storyline that spans three generations and includes the gruesome murder of an innocent teenager from up north, who didn’t understand how cruel and nasty the racism of the Old South could be. Emmett Till was in Money visiting his uncle, Moses Wright, in the summer of 1955. On August 28th, two white men came to his uncle’s house and accused him of whistling at one of their wives. They dragged out in the middle of the night vowing to teach him a lesson he wouldn’t forget. His badly beaten body was found three days later, in the Tallahatchie River. One of his eyes was gouged out, and he had been shot in the head. Till’s mother brought the boy’s body back to Chicago and gave him an open-casket, so that all the world could see how her son had been abused. Pictures of dead teenager laid out in the coffin were pictured in Jet Magazine, and eventually in national newspapers and magazines around the world. The two white men were charged with Till’s death, but then acquitted by an all-white jury. They later admitted their guilt and sold their story to a national magazine, but double jeopardy had attached, and they could not be retried. McFadden – whose other novels include the critically acclaimed and nationally best-selling novels Sugar, Camilla’s Rose, and Glorious – lives in Brooklyn, NY, but all of her 15 novels take place in the South. In 2001 she was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for her 2001 novel, The Warmest December, and has twice won the Zora Neale Hurston Award for Creative Contribution to Fiction. In Gathering of Waters, McFadden weaves her novel around the story of Emmett Till, but does not begin the book in 1955, but near the turn of the century in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where a whore named Esther is stabbed to death. Esther’s spirit, we find out, possesses a 5-year-old girl, who grows up to be a sordid woman who eventually moves to Money, along with her preacher husband, and their two children. According to Money – remember the town itself is the narrator – the spirit of the dark whore, Esther, moves from body to body doing dastardly deeds which eventually leads to the lynching of Emmett Till. But just as the novel doesn’t begin with his lynching, nor does it end with it. You see, in the novel a 15-year-old girl from Money named Tillie falls in love with Emmett, and shares her first kiss with him. The blossoming relationship between the two teenagers is touching, but never makes it to full-bloom. Yet Tillie never forgets him, even after leaving Money, Mississippi, and it’s through her life that we continue to remember the deceased Chicago teenager. McFadden brings her novel all the way up into the new millennium, and it ends with a twist, that most readers will not see coming. Gathering of Waters is touching, captivating, well-written . . . if I could think of other complimentary adjectives I would also add those. Suffice it to say that this is a book that will appeal to the young and old; and those who are interested reading about history and those who primarily read fiction. In other words, it’s a book that simply should not be missed.
For those who have wondered how old is too old to be fascinated by fairy tales, Kamala Nair has answered that question in her debut novel, The Girl in...moreFor those who have wondered how old is too old to be fascinated by fairy tales, Kamala Nair has answered that question in her debut novel, The Girl in the Garden. The answer? There is no such thing as too old.
This beautifully written story is filled with intriguing characters, hints of mystery, and sprinklings of magic, that will touch any reader’s heart as a young girl – struggling to save her parents’ shaky marriage – sets out to unlock the family secret that she senses hangs over everyone’s head and affects all of their lives.
As the book opens, we meet a twenty-something Rakhee Singh who is just two weeks away from obtaining her masters degree in Architecture from Yale University, about to join a prestigious design firm in New York City, and has recently become engaged. But Rakhee feels there are demons in her past that must be dealt with before she can move on with her future; and since it seems, all of these demons reside in India, she decides she must go there before she can marry. As the story unfolds we learn that the trip she’s now taking has everything to do with a trip she took more than a decade earlier.
That was when Rakhee and her parents -- Amma and Aba -- lived in Plainfield, Minnesota. Amma was a fragile beauty, catered to by Aba who was 13 years her senior. At one point during Rakhee’s childhood, Amma was away at what seemed to be a rest home after a nervous breakdown. When she returned to the family home, the only thing that seemed to bring her any happiness was a small garden that Aba had built for her.
Then one day Amma receives a mysterious blue envelope in the mail, which is addressed to her in her maiden name. Amma is vague when 11-year-old Rakhee asks who sent the letter, just answering it is from a friend in India, but Rakhee notices that tears stream down her mother’s face as she reads it – and her usually somber mood changes so much that she actually begins smiling and singing around the house as more of the mysterious letters begin to arrive. But Rakhee also notices that things begin to get strained between her parents, and her father is soon sleeping in the guest room.
Still, nothing has prepared Rakhee for the shock she receives on the last day of school when her mother announces that she’s taking her to Kerala, India for the summer to visit family. Rakhee is dead-set against going, especially when she finds out that Aba will not be accompanying them, but her mother is adamant.
Once they arrive in India, Rakhee meets her grandmother, aunts, an uncle, and her three cousins -- 17-year-old Gitanjali, 13-year-old Meenu, and 11-year-old Krishna along with a mysterious man named Dev who – though is not a relative – seems to have a prominent role in the household. The adults cater to him, but Meenu confides to Rakhee that the children hate him.
In spite of herself Rakhee actually begins to enjoy her stay and the cousins; she enjoys the camaraderie, and the games, but scoffs at their superstitious belief that a Rakshasi “a hideous she-devil who feeds off the flesh of children,” lives behind the stone wall in back of the family home. However, when she looks out her bedroom window one night and sees her mother and aunt climb the barricade she remembers her cousins telling her that their mother brings offerings to the Rakshasi so it wouldn’t eat the children in their sleep, and she begins to wonder if there’s any validity to the superstition.
A few days later, she sees her mother with a childhood friend whom she introduces as Prem, and, “Anger welled up inside me, anger at Amma for ruining everything and looking at this man, this Prem, in a way I had never seen her look at Aba.” Her anger, mixed with her curiosity, draws her to the forbidden stone wall. But when she finds a wooden door in the wall and peeks through the key hole, she sees a sight that will stay with her the rest of her life.
The plot in The Girl in the Garden is somewhat predictable, but strangely enough that didn’t bother me – because, in this instance, predictable does not mean boring. That notwithstanding, the book is more than just a pleasant read, it’s destined to be a classic; a fascinating book that will hold the attention of a 14-year-old, a 28-year-old, or a 56-year-old. (less)
I LOVED Perfect Peace by Daniel Black, and really enjoyed They Tell Me of a Home, and so I couldn't wait to read Twelve Gates...more Why, why, why, why???????
I LOVED Perfect Peace by Daniel Black, and really enjoyed They Tell Me of a Home, and so I couldn't wait to read Twelve Gates to the City -- the prequel to They Tell Me of a Home. I can't even begin to express how disappointed I was!
I give you this, though . . . no one can capture the spirit and feel of the rural South like Daniel Black can. I loved reading about the Meeting Tree and the stories told and antics displayed there. Lawdy, Lawdy, Lawdy . . . felt like I was there. Wished I was there! I also enjoyed the family reunion, and seeing how the family member interacted, and viewed each other.
Unfortunately, those were not only the best parts of the book, it was probably the only parts of the book I can say I enjoyed.
This book starts out where They Tell Me of a Home leaves off; when T.L. gets off the bus and decides to stay in Arkansas rather than return to his home in New York City.
The problem is the book destroys many of the things readers think they learned about T.L.'s sister's death. Then it adds a supernatural bent that just doesn't ever really come together or make sense.
If so many of the things we learned in They Tell Me of a Home were untrue, the question is why did we read the book in a first place. And the new information revealed, is a LOT less interesting that the information given in the first place.
In short, not only did I not enjoy Twelve Gates, it made me rethink my view of They Tell Me of a Home.
I hate giving a book a bad review, but since I did promise a review -- I felt obligated to do an honest one. (less)
Has it really only been 18 years since Terry McMillan wowed the publishing world with her book, Waiting to Exhale? It seems like forever!
How I missed...moreHas it really only been 18 years since Terry McMillan wowed the publishing world with her book, Waiting to Exhale? It seems like forever!
How I missed those four friends, Bernadine, Gloria, Robin, and Savannah (missed them in that order, by the way) and wanted to know how they were doing. Did Bernadine and her new man, James, have a happily forever after? My bet was they did. Bernadine deserved it after the way her ex-hubby did her. Hmph!
And Gloria. Oh, my precious Gloria. The woman with the weight problem – like me – who managed to hit pay dirt with a good man like Marvin. There was no doubt in my mind that she was still in heaven. And I wanted to share the good life right along with her.
Robin – oh that cute little promiscuous, shopaholic, scamp! She was pregnant and still single when I last checked in on her. I didn’t know if she had the fortitude to be a single-mom, but I just knew she’d get by because of the strength of her friends. Savannah? Well, to be honest, I never did really cotton to Savannah.
But still, I did wonder if Miss Perfectionist had finally met a man who could live up to her expectations. I sincerely wished the best for her.
So when I heard that Terry McMillan was writing a sequel to her 1992 blockbuster I went wild! Couldn’t wait to see how my girls were doing! Well! You could have blown me away!
Bernadine’s second husband was ten times the jerk her first ever was. And so now she’s twice divorced, and hooked on prescription pills. Gloria’s happily ever after comes to a screeching halt in the first of her chapters in this new book, due to a sudden tragedy.
Robin is still addicted to shopping, and still a lonely woman, desperately looking for men in all the wrong places.
Savannah is, well, Savannah is still Savannah. While she was still single in Waiting to Exhale, Getting to Happy opens with her being married and deciding to divorce her new husband after finding a rather dirty (but not earth shattering) secret about him.
As much as I wanted them to be happy, nobody was!
But then again, the title of the book should have tipped me off.
Getting to Happy implies they haven’t made it yet.
Still? Oh no!
Though Waiting to Exhale was Terry’s third book – after Mama, and Disappearing Acts – it was the one which brought her worldwide fame, and her first million dollars. Not only did it make the New York Times bestseller’s list, but it was turned into a movie starring Angela Bassett, Whitney Houston, Loretta DeVine, and Lela Richon. The scene in the book – and the movie – where Bernadine angrily threw all of her husband’s belongings into his brand new BMW and then lit the car on fire was burned into everyone’s minds. Wow! Talk about revenge!
This was just one of the drama-filled scenes in Waiting to Exhale, but sadly, there are no such scenes in McMillan’s new book.
Getting to Happy takes us on an exploration of the lives of the four friends, but unlike Waiting to Exhale, the friendship itself doesn’t become a fifth character of the book. Instead, it seems that the women are all on their own and only check in on each other every once in awhile. Even after Gloria’s tragedy, we didn’t see the women rally around her the way we saw in Waiting to Exhale.
Which made me realize that I loved the relationship between the four friends even more than I loved the women themselves.
One of the things I’ve always loved about Terry McMillan books is that her storylines are realistic, and turn out the way things really do turn out the way do in real life; no fairytale endings just to make readers happy. And, to be truthful, what happened to each of the women is pretty much how it could have actually played out in real life. And maybe the biggest problem I had with the book was that I thought if there was hope for Bernadine, Gloria, Robin and Savannah, there might be hope for me!
I, too, was a single, not so young, black woman who would have been happy to have a man in my life when I first read Waiting to Exhale. I remember hearing about some study that said, statistically, a woman was more likely to get hit by lightening than marry after the age of 40; but these, women . . . man, these women gave me hope!
I applaud McMillan for “keeping it real,” as the young folks say, in Getting to Happy. But, dang, Terry, don’t you realize how much I needed everyone to really have gotten to happy by now? Come on girl, help a sista out! (less)
Any faithful reader of Kimberla Lawson Roby knows what an unfaithful dog the Rev. Curtis Black is – he’s never married a wife he’s thought was too goo...moreAny faithful reader of Kimberla Lawson Roby knows what an unfaithful dog the Rev. Curtis Black is – he’s never married a wife he’s thought was too good to be cheated on. Nor has he ever met another’s man’s wife he thought to good to cheat with. But after reading Love, Honor, and Betray, even the most unforgiving person might feel sorry for the reverend and think he’s finally met his match now that he’s married to Charlotte, whose name – for good reason – perfectly rhymes with harlot. After all, she was having an affair with Black when he was still married to his second wife, Mariah. And after they married she had an affair with a lunatic who tried to burn the Black’s house down, with her in it. And, oh yeah, when she found out she was pregnant with another man’s child she tried to pass the little girl off as her husband’s. Perhaps it was because of Rev. Black’s own sordid past that he was able to forgive Charlotte, the one wife he truly loved. He even took time to do some long overdue self-analysis – and vowed to start walking in the path of God. That didn’t stop him, however, from also carrying on yet another adulteress affair, and having a baby – Curtina – with his new mistress. I know . . . you need a score card to keep up with all the infidelities and drama. But when Curtina’s mother dies, and Rev. Black decides the only decent thing to do is take the little girl into the home he and Charlotte shares with their teenage son, Matthew, Charlotte has had enough; and decides to up the ante. One of the reasons Charlotte is so adamantly opposed the Rev. Black’s illegitimate daughter living with them is because she is still mourning the death or her own young daughter, Malissa, and when the reverend suggests that Curtina might be a replacement from God, Charlotte explodes. Lawdy, lawdy, lawdy! Lawson first introduced readers to the scandalous Rev. Black, in her third novel – Casting the First Stone – back in 2001. The book quickly became a book club favorite, and Lawson was quickly hailed as the Queen of African-American Christian fiction; not because her characters acted particularly “Christian,” but because – like the books written by fellow author, Victoria Christopher Murray – her books were centered around the Black Church. Too Much of a Good Thing, Roby’s sixth novel – and the second in the Rev. Black saga – made the New York Times best seller’s list in 2004, and she’s been a frequent on the list since. If you want Christian drama, you want a Roby book; and she delivers, plus some, in Love, Honor, and Betray, the eighth novel in the Rev. Black saga. Charlotte is so deadest against the newly proposed living arrangement that she gives her husband an ultimatum – either he sends the two-year-old to live with her mother’s family, or she will leave. But, to her surprise, Black reluctantly calls her bluff. His preference is to keep his home life intact since he really loves Charlotte, but under no circumstances will he send Curtina away. Devastated, but reluctant to give up the luxuries that being First Lady of a large church and a best-selling author provides, she decides to make life so miserable for him that he’ll rethink his decision. First, she starts ignoring Curtina, who calls her “mommy,” and constantly reaches out to for her affection. When that only serves to confuse the young child, and antagonize her teenage son who can’t understand how his mother can be vindictive against an innocent toddler, she turns to other measures to get back at the reverend; like sleeping with not one – but two men behind his back. And for his part, Rev. Black struggles to fight temptation of the flesh with women throwing themselves at him, all while his wife is doing her best to push him away. After a near-tragedy, Charlotte decides to give both men up and concentrate on making her marriage work, but her infidelities come back to haunt her; and even as she asks for God’s forgiveness she wonders if her husband finds out about her betrayals will he also be able to forgive her sins. Roby does a good job of giving back story in Love, Honor and Betray, but new fans – not familiar with all the scandals related to Rev. Curtis Black – may have a bit of a time trying to understand the motivations of the different characters in the book; though they will no doubt have fun trying. But for those thousands of fans who can’t get enough of the “good” reverend and his wives, this is a book that should not be missed. One can only wonder, what will Roby come up with next. (less)
Well, she finally did it. Jasmine Cox Larson Bush is finally First Lady of City of Lights of Riverside Church in Harlem, a position she coveted since...moreWell, she finally did it. Jasmine Cox Larson Bush is finally First Lady of City of Lights of Riverside Church in Harlem, a position she coveted since first marrying Hosea Bush – son of the church’s founding pastor. The position may be only temporary – just until her father-in-law recovers from a gunshot wound received in a drive-by shooting – but Jasmine intends to make the most of her time as First Lady.
But then she gets an anonymous note: Get your husband to step down from the pulpit, or else everyone will know what you did in the summer of 1983.
For those who’ve read Victoria Christopher Murray’s earlier books about nefarious but lovable Jasmine – Temptation, A Sin and a Shame, and Too Little Too Late – you know that Jasmine has a bit of trouble telling the truth. For instance, she conveniently forgot to tell hubby about the adulterous affair she carried out before her marriage with her best friend’s husband. Or that she had been married before. Or a true age. Or even her true shoe size. Lying comes easily to Jasmine, but somehow her lies always seem to come to the surface. Even the most damaging of all – that while being courted by Hosea she became embroiled in an affair with a married man and passed his child of as Hosea’s. But somehow she’s managed to maintain her marriage, thanks largely to her husband’s seemingly unending ability to forgive and forget. Unfortunately, her lies have been revealed not only to her husband, but to the church members. And the one thing that that the good members of City of Lights enjoy almost as praising the Lord, it’s gossiping about Jasmine and her exploits.
And Jasmine is sure it’s one of those members who has sent her the anonymous note threatening to reveal her summer of 1983 summer exploits.. But which one? Pastor Wyatt, who’s upset that her husband was promoted to interim head pastor over him? Sister Whittington, who’s never forgiven her for trying to seduce Rev. Bush before switching her attention to Hosea. Ivy, a childhood of friend of Hosea’s who back on the scene and has made it clear she wants him for herself? Or Jerome Viceroy, a City Councilman who wants to purchase part of the church’s property. Jasmine’s got to find out, because this is the one secret that she knows that can never be forgiven. And what the blackmailer doesn’t count on is coming across a woman who is a master at playing games and ruining those played by others.
.And Jasmine does not disappoint, though as she goes about rooting out the various secrets and scandals of the people she suspects may be her blackmailer she finds herself not only unraveling their pasts but coming close to inadvertently revealing her own. And all this while trying to support her husband who is struggling to maintain her place at the pulpit against well-intentioned church members who think he’s not ready to step into his father’s shoes.
Murray, an Essence bestselling author, does a wonderful job of weaving a plot full of twists and turns that will leave the reader both rooting for Jasmine, and hoping she finally gets her comeupperance. There’s something about Jasmine that anyone in a relationship can relate to; no matter how honest we are with our mates there are some things that we simply believe or better left unmentioned; whether it’s or weight, our dress size, or past relationships. It’s just that Jasmine’s secrets are so scandalous, and so many!
It should be said that for all evil ways, Jasmine has a relentless faith in God, promising that if he’ll get her out of this mess, she’ll never tell a lie or hide another secret. Of course she’s made this promise before, but we want to believe Jasmine because it’s so evident that she honestly believes herself.
Lady Jasmine is a definite page turner, but the one real criticism is that the climax is just not as climatic as the reader might help. Still, the journey is not only one worth taking, but one that shouldn’t be missed. (less)
For all those who thought – like me – that the Hamptons was simply the summer playground for the rich and beautiful, Sag Harbor, by Colson Whitehead m...more For all those who thought – like me – that the Hamptons was simply the summer playground for the rich and beautiful, Sag Harbor, by Colson Whitehead may come as a surprise. It seems that upper-middle class African-Americans have owned summer homes there since the 1940s.
And in 1985 15-year-old Benji summered there for his 15th year. Only for the first time he’s pretty much on his own since his parents have decided that he and his younger brother are old enough to hold down the home front, while they only make the 2 ½ hour trek from New York City on the occasional weekend.
To Benji, this is the chance of a lifetime; a chance to prove how cool he really is.
Forget the fact that his classmates in the predominantly white prep school he attends have labeled him a nerd, due in large part to his penchant for Dungeons and Dragons. Forget the fact that he still wears braces, has only a few straggly strands of hair on his chin, and the Afro he sports is misshapen beyond recognition. Forget the fact that, despite his best efforts, he’s never mastered the art of the ever changing soul-brother handshake, and that’s he’s never kissed a girl. Benji is on a mission.
The question that readers are left to ponder after reading this much awaited novel by renowned author Colson Whitehead: is it mission impossible or never a mission at all.
Whitehead, whose previous novels include The Intuitionist, and John Henry Days – which was on the shortlist for the Pulitzer Prize – continues to show off his wonderfully literary style in this fictionalized autobiography. But unlike his other works, Sag Harbor suffers from lack of focus.
Early on, Sag Harbor shows promise of being a wonderful coming of age story like the classic book The Summer of ’42, or the movie The Inkwell; but the promise is never fulfilled.
The Summer of ’42, details a summer in the life a teenager during World War II, who is vacationing with his family in Maine. Although the protagonist was white, and I’m black;, was a teenager in the 40s more than a decade before I was born; and a male while I’m female, I quickly found myself enraptured by the story.
The Inkwell tells the story of an awkward African-American teenager summering in an all-black section of Martha’s Vineyard in the 1970s who pines for a popular and unattainable girl. Again, the protagonist’s reality was far from mine, but I was engrossed.
It wasn’t until after I read Sag Harbor that I realized why I loved these stories so much – it was because both had intriguing plots which enticed me to read about characters with whom I had nothing in common, and in continuing reading I learned about people and lifestyles very different from my own.
While Sag Harbor is beautifully written, I found it much too easy to put down the book. There was nothing to urge me to continue reading. There was no defined plot, and I found myself desperately searching for one. If the plot was supposed to be his determination to prove his coolness, the only move he seems to have made toward this was an unsuccessful attempt to get his summer buddies to call him Ben instead of Benji.
The novel both benefits and suffers from Whitehead’s frequent use of flashbacks – though sometimes entertaining, they often had nothing to do with the story being told.
I did learn a lot about the history of the African-American enclave on Sag Harbor, though, and I was able to laugh –sometimes out loud – at the teenage angst that Benji suffers. I also found myself pitying him his dysfunctional family which includes a mentally and physically abusive father, and a distant mother. But my occasional laughter and pity, notwithstanding, I had a hard time getting into this novel.
As a coming of age tale, Sag Harbor fails because we see no real development on Benji’s part. As a slice of live story, Sag Harbor fails because there was nothing intriguing enough to make me care about the slice – or want more.
I’m sure it would have been a lot easier if I’d been a male African-American teenager in the 1980s growing up in an upper-middle class family who summered in the Hamptons. But I wasn’t. And with no plot to egg me on and enable me to relate rather than just read, I found myself often falling asleep while attempting to get through this almost 300 page novel. (less)
The story begins in 1940 which a young teenage 'negro' girl is brutally murdered, her 'private part' cut out an...more This book that has to be a new classic!
The story begins in 1940 which a young teenage 'negro' girl is brutally murdered, her 'private part' cut out and left alongside the road next to her butchered body. The murder is enough to set her family into a tailspin of despair, and threatens to send the mother -- Pearl -- totally insane as she mourns the loss of her only daughter.
But then, 15 years later, a stranger comes into town. Wearing high-heels, a gaudy wig, tight clothes, and toting a suitcase, she immediately raises the ire and suspicion of the residents of Bigelow, Arkansas. But when Pearl first sees the woman everyone is talking about she almost faints. She's almost the spitting image of her murdered daughter. When Sugar Lacey moves into vacant house next door, Pearl makes it her mission to get to know her mysterious neighbor -- despite the fact that Sugar has immediately started entertaining men willing to spend money to lay in her arms and in between her legs.
Despite a rocky start, a friendship blossoms between the two women; changing both of their lives.
But then revelations come to light that not only threatens to send Pearl back into her dark tailspin, but reveal long-ago buried secrets of many of the town's residents. (less)