C.E. Hart's Reviews > Ain't No Sunshine

Ain't No Sunshine by Leslie DuBois
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May 02, 11

bookshelves: murder, abuse, racism, secrets, love
Read from April 30 to May 01, 2011

Ain’t No Sunshine, a novella written by Leslie DuBois.

This story wowed me. I was drawn in immediately and the wonderful narration kept me glued. The imagery is strong and the dialogue is believable and engaging. I was moved by the characters and cared about their outcome.

The story begins as Stephen Phillips is interrogated by a badgering Chicago police officer. “Did you do it, Stephen?” The officer places gruesome photos of Reverend Phillips’ bloody corpse on the table, but Stephen refuses to look at them. “Why don't you look at your father's mutilated body? Beaten to death with a shovel outside his own home."

The officer continues asking Stephen if he murdered the man who lay dead in Virginia. The same man who raised and loved him for eighteen years. Stephen replies, “My father never loved me. Never.”

When the officer’s goading doesn’t get the desired response, he attempts another tactic—changing the direction of the conversation to Stephen’s girlfriend Ruthie who sits in a nearby interrogation room.

Excerpt:
"Maybe I'll just have to ask that pretty little colored girlfriend of yours," he said, staring at Ruthie's picture and licking his lips.
"You leave her out of this." My hands clenched into fists.
"I don't know if I can do that. She seems to be pretty involved." He kept staring at her picture as he spoke. "Your father is found dead at your home in Virginia and you're found seven hundred miles away with a Negro whore. I can't -"
He didn't get to finish his thought. I leapt across the table and started pounding his face in. Seconds later, I was subdued by several officers. They placed me back in the chair and handcuffed me to the table.
This was getting worse and worse by the minute. I'd gladly go to jail for killing that man. He deserved to die. I just didn't want Ruthie to get dragged into this. After all we'd been through, at least one of us deserved a chance to be happy.

After the room settles, another officer enters the room. Lieutenant Drake has a friendlier, gentle approach, and Stephen begins to soften.

Excerpt:
"Why are you running? You know running only makes you look guilty and I don't really believe you killed your father. I don't think you're capable."
I stared at him. "You have no idea what I'm capable of. You have no idea what that man did to me."
"You're right. I don't," he said, trying to hide his surprise at my response. He sat down and crossed his arms. "So why don't you tell me? You obviously have a story and you need someone to listen. So tell me your story. Tell me everything."

Stephen’s story soon begins to flow. He tells about Ruthie, his childhood friend, and how their friendship eventually blossomed into a powerful love as they grew—despite the fact that loving a ‘colored’ was forbidden. He remembered staring up at the colored balcony in his father’s church when he was six years old, trying to catch a glimpse of his beautiful Ruthie. He paid for it when he got home with a beating. That didn’t stop his love for Ruthie. He refused to let his father take the one thing in his life that brought him true happiness.

He tells the officer about the lifetime of abuse he, his brother (Matthew), and mother (Marjorie) endured by the hands of the cherished small town Virginia reverend, Theodore Phillips. His father’s explosive anger and violence plagued him every day. After years of violent abuse, Matthew disappeared, and Marjorie suffered mercilessly until becoming an empty shell; but Stephen endured by retreating into that loved part of his heart. The beautiful part that Ruthie filled.

Stephen divulges the many ordeals that cursed his life that led to the day Theodore Phillips died. He reveals the eccentricities, secrets, and atrocities his father kept concealed behind his reverend cloak, and in the end, the truth behind the reverend’s death.

Upon completing this novella, I felt somewhat changed. It is a sad story with victories, and a terrifying tale with soft and loving moments. Such a wide range of emotions that finally left me feeling satisfied—yet not settled.

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