Rebecca's Reviews > What You Owe Me

What You Owe Me by Bebe Moore Campbell
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's review
Jan 31, 2008

liked it
bookshelves: fiction, read2008
Recommended to Rebecca by: Katie

Wow, this book was so absurdly and comprehensively heartwarming! The whole goshdarn cast of white and black characters successfully work through every one of their issues with racial identity / abandoning or overbearing mommies and daddies / generational grudges / discrimination and privilege. Wouldn't you know, trading in the past for redemption and forgiveness isn't just good for the soul, it's apparently the secret to luck in love and money! Fade to inspiring multicultural dance scene. No, really, there's a dance scene.

If you couldn't tell from the above, I liked it! It's a powerful story well told and, bonus, a nice vision for healing the divisions in American society. But I thought it was overdone. Hosanna's struggle to find herself and to relate to Gilda was the heart of the first historical section, and I think the second section lost its focus by whipping around between the perspectives of so many secondary characters. By the time I could keep track of everyone, I did begin to appreciate the way Campbell weaves together the generational angst and then invests you in how each individual steps up to untangle their own part of the mess. And sure, they're great characters and I like an epic saga as much as the next person. But I also like how fiction explores that existential you-can-never-really-know-other-people dilemma. So it felt way too easy for Campbell to give us an all-access pass into all her characters' souls while they struggle for such insight. Like one of those mystery novels where the reader knows who the culprit is the whole time. Why not let the reader finish the journey with Matriece, as we started it with Hosanna?

Also there's a ghost. Hmm. And a weird obsession with suspecting people of being gay, except for the actual tokenly gay character. Hmmmm. And a LOT of talk about cosmetics. Hmmmmmmm.
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message 1: by Allison (new)

Allison haha I love your review. You're going to be a hard one to keep up with. :)

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