Back to School: The Nickel Boys and Jim Crow Florida

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The Nickel Boys Book Review

by Colson Whitehead

Author: Colson Whitehead | Genre: Fiction | Published: August 2019

My September book review is the talented Colson Whitehead’s, The Nickel Boys. The Nickel Boys takes place in Tallahassee, Florida during Jim Crow. The story opens with the discovery of graves on the site of the Nickel Academy, the fictitious version of the real-life Dozier School for Boys in Marianna, Florida. The old skeletons are unidentified, and so Whitehead begins the story of Elwood and Turner, two friends who meet at the Nickel Academy years before the bones appeared.

Elwood, abandoned by his mother and father, and raised by his grandmother, is mesmerized by the teachings of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King and holds on to optimism that equality will come to Florida. However, one unfortunate night lands him in the back of a patrol car and he is sentenced to a juvenile reformation school, known as the Nickel Academy. There, Elwood meets Turner, who is now on his second term at the school and has less optimism regarding their fate both inside and outside the school’s walls.

What I Liked…

It was evident by Whitehead’s writings that he did his research regarding the turmoil Black boys faced when they attended the segregated reform school. While I may not have lived during the egregious era, I’ve inherited countless stories from my father, who was raised in Florida during Jim Crow and the Civil Rights Movement. The descriptions of racism Elwood, Turner and the other characters faced was not only reminiscent of stories my father shared of his childhood in Florida, but it was a fresh reminder racism is embedded in American culture, and rears its ugly head in all institutions. Despite being a historical novel, I found it relatable and haunting. At only 200 pages, it is definitely worth a read.

Elwood’s grandmother might not be there when he got out. This had never occurred to him before. She was rarely sick, and when she was, she refused to stay off her feet. She was a survivor but the world took her in bites. Her husband had died young, her daughter had vanished out West, and now her only grandson had been sentenced to this place. She had swallowed the portion of misery the world had given her, and now there she was, alone on Brevard Street, her family tugged away one by one. she might not be there.

What I Didn’t Like…

If you’re not crazy about period pieces, then this book is not for you. Whitehead’s books seem to almost always take place in a historical setting (e.g., The Underground Railroad). Although I am a lover of fiction, I sometimes become easily bored with historical novels. Nonetheless, I preferred The Nickel Boys over The Underground Railroad. I’m not sure if this is because, in all honesty, Jim Crow wasn’t that long ago…

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Speaking of Summer: Author Kalisha Buckhanon Making Waves in Literature

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Speaking of Sumer

Author Kalisha Buckhanon Making Waves in Literature

Author: Kalisha Buckhanon | Genre: Fiction | Published: July 2019

I was very excited to get this book in my hands, when it was released a few weeks ago. How could you NOT want to read this book, based on the cover alone?!? Isn’t it gorgeous? The hardcover jacket was designed by artist Jaya Miceli, who also did Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng and The Gifted School by Bruce Holsinger.

Anyways, Speaking of Summer is about Autumn Spencer, a young woman with a twin sister named Summer. They’re from the midwest, but venture to the city that never sleeps, in search of the same ‘ol same ‘ol that most young people pursue when they move to New York City. While Summer is characterized as the struggling artist whose paintings haunt the history of the girls’ past, Autumn is the writer, with several business clients. It’s Autumn’s work, that funds their apartment in Harlem, keeping their lifestyle afloat. Then one freezing winter night, Summer goes missing. She was last seen on the roof of their apartment building, her footprints still in the snow. And the that was last time anyone saw her.

What I liked…

I greatly enjoyed how the author really highlighted both external and internal issues that a family member may face when their relative goes missing. The author properly articulates the trauma and difficulties that Autumn personally experiences as a result of Summer being a missing woman of color. For example, the author makes it a point to remind the reader that Black girls and women who go missing are often overlooked by law enforcement and the media. In 2018, over 424,000 children were reported missing to local law enforcement officials. Researches contend that there are approximately 75,000 missing Black women and girls nationwide. Autumn repeatedly goes to see Detective Montgomery, who is assigned to her case, but he seemingly lacks motivation in the search for Summer. Autumn notices that her only two girlfriends haven’t brought up Summer or her disappearance; so, Autumn purposely avoids the topic of her sister feeling as though no one is concerned about her untimely departure except her. Buckhanon also illustrates how trauma can alter and affect your mental and emotional health; and, how left untreated, can procure harmful results.

Then there’s Chase, Summer’s boyfriend. In a moment of complete vulnerability, due to the death of their mother, Autumn sleeps with her sister’s boyfriend. They begin their affair, right before Summer goes missing. Now, Autumn can’t help but wonder if it was her own selfishness that pushed her sister away.

What I loved about this book is that nothing is what it seems. After about 75% of the book, the author does a complete plot twist and you won’t know what to think. In the end, Autumn begins a dedicated attempt to find herself; and in the process, answers the main question of whether anyone found Summer.

What I didn’t like…

I couldn’t think of anything negative about this particular book. This was my first Buckhanon novel and I was genuinely impressed by her creative writing style and the relatable character of Autumn.

This is one of the few books that I can honestly say I will probably read more than once. Have you read this amazing novel yet? What did you think of Autumn’s relationship with Summer and Chase? Leave your comments below. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this book!

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Red, White and Covert: American Spy

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Red, White and Covert

American Spy by Lauren Wilkinson

Happy July!  I kicked off my Summer book list with none other than American Spy by Lauren Wilkinson.  The main character, Marie, starts off with killing an intruder in her home and immediately fleeing with her two twin boys.  After they flee, Marie feels as though she has no choice but finally tell the truth to her children about where they come from, why they are on the run, and that their American lives isn’t everything it seems.

 

What I liked…

 

I loved how the author decided to have the protagonist write in a journal, telling her story from the first person. The book is written to the twin boys as if she is writing every single detail from memory.  I enjoyed how the author connects the disappearance of Marie’s sister, to Marie’s future clandestine assignment and the unraveling of what Marie thought actually happened to her best friend.

 

In terms of character development, Marie was a real life woman of color going through real life trials and tribulations in her federal job. Working at government agencies can still feel like “the good ‘ol boys club,” despite it being 2019 and women breaking all kinds of glass ceilings.  Despite being the top in her class at Quantico, Marie struggles to rise in the ranks within her local FBI field office.  She was always told she had to work twice as hard to receive the same recognition as her White counterparts; and was beginning to feel that in spite of carrying over this effort into her career, she still saw no recognition from her superior officer.  She noticed that she’s constantly given assignments that do not assist her professional growth; when she complains to her mentor, she’s reminded to “stay in line” and “don’t rock the boat;” and, the feeling that she must repeatedly prove her loyalty and dedication to her job due to fear emanated by male supervisors who fail to promote women  because they assume the woman will leave their career for their domestic responsibilities.  Nonetheless, not only does she feel her own internalized pressures of success within the FBI as an appreciative compliment to her deceased sister, but she even acknowledges societal pressures within the Black community and the need to succeed so that her achievements are utilized as a promotional opportunity to encourage other Black women trailing behind her.  I suppose such pressures are real in any career, for working women of color; not just government agencies.  The author did an excellent job demonstrating an educated and talented woman can still be hurdled by misogynistic views; and, how the advice of “playing the game,” should be perceived as a threat to a woman’s success in the workplace, rather than collegial persuasion. 

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What I didn’t like…

 

Marie has an affair with a married man, who just so happens to be a high profile political figure, Thomas.  She talks about how quickly she fell in love with him and their short-lived world wind romance.  But to me, it wasn’t all that romantic at all.  I thought that this mini-plot could’ve been developed more, along with the actual development of her love interest’s character.  It just seemed like it was lacking or wasn’t all that believable to me.  Not to say that people don’t have short-lived world wind romances!  I just thought that this mini plot needed more build up.  For example, there’s some flirtation, batting eyes and all of a sudden, she’s in love.  She finally gets him alone.  She finally sleeps with him. But that’s it.  Maybe the author thought that because of their short time together, that’s all Marie really needed with Thomas.  But, it just didn’t seem real to me.

 

I also wanted more development of Slater, her sister’s former boyfriend turned government military contractor.  The author alluded to his craziness and the glimpses were small.  Finally, the book ends with Marie wanting to go after Ross, Slater’s former partner.  Since the book ended with Marie’s fate unresolved, I can’t help but wonder if there will be a second installment. Without a sequel, Marie’s story feels unfinished and you’re left hoping that whatever revenge she decides to take, she is successful and returns to her boys.

 

All in all, I’m glad I finally picked up a copy and read it. I finished this novel rather quickly since the book is seemingly fast paced.  If you’ve already read Wilkinson’s first novel, leave a comment below and let me know you’re thoughts!

 

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Refugees Welcome: Exit West

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Refugees Welcome

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

Can you believe we are SIX MONTHS into 2019?  June is one of my favorite times of the year, not solely because it’s Spring and the start to Summer weather, but also because I get to talk about a topic that I love very much.  For those who don’t know, I work in the immigration field where my subject matter expertise is asylum and refugee law.   June is World Refugee Month, so I wanted to present some of my favorite books documenting the world’s most vulnerable humanitarian migrants, refugees and asylum seekers.  Every year on June 20th, the United Nations commemorates “the strength, courage and perseverance of millions of refugees.”  The United Nations chose June 20th as the national day of recognition because every 20 minutes, people leave everything they have – their home, jobs, even family and friends – to escape war, persecution or terror.  For more information on humanitarian migrants and World Refugee Day, visit here

For June’s book of the month, I chose author Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West.  Hamid tells the fictional refugee story of Saeed and Nadia.  After meeting in a class at their University, Saeed and Nadia begin their attempt at dating, just as any young college lovebirds would do. However, their curiosity and desire for one another comes at the most inconvenient time, at the beginning of a civil war in their home country.  At first, it’s simple checkpoints by the government’s army and countering militias.  Then, it’s mandatory curfews. Next, there’s no internet, cell phone or television service.  Finally, there’s no city power, clean drinking water or food.  Both Nadia and Saeed hear gunfire in the distance of their respective homes, but it’s not until Saeed’s mother is killed by a stray bullet that Nadia finally takes Saeed up on his offer and moves in with him and his father.  When Saeed makes contact with a human smuggler to help him and Nadia escape their now war torn country, Saeed’s father refuses and the two young college students – who have never left the boundaries of their country – must put their lives into the hands of strangers to help them escape to safe territory.  Exit West tells their year-long story of escaping to safety and the troubles they face along the way.

What I liked…

I thought Hamid did an excellent job portraying the difficulties refugees face during their journey to a safe haven.  Nadia and Saeed made it to several countries, including Britain and Greece, before finally making it to America.  Hamid not only illustrated the strain that escaping war can have on a family, or two people who believe they’re in love, but also the additional challenges that refugees face along their escape route.  Nadia and Saeed had their money taken by a stranger who promised to smuggle them into another country, only to not disappear; they had to live in overcrowded refugee camps and work for little to nothing; and, were even faced with threats by xenophobic protestors. 

I also really enjoyed Hamid’s writing style.  For example, there were instances in almost each chapter where Hamid would throw in a quick paragraph about another character – almost seemingly in a parallel universe – where the author attempts to illustrate how the refugee crisis affects this person.  Hamid attempts to demonstrate to the reader that the current humanitarian crisis affects all of us, in diverse ways.  I thought that these short paragraphs were equally compelling as the main story.

I also greatly enjoyed the character development of both Nadia and Saeed.  Nadia is independent, strong willed, and isn’t afraid to speak her mind.  Nadia wears an all-black veil and gown, similar to a Muslim Abaya, but doesn’t consider herself religious and she doesn’t practice strict prayer like Saeed.  She notes to Saeed that she wears the gown not for religious reasons but almost as protection against unwelcome harassment by men in the streets; that anything contemporary (e.g., jeans and a shirt) would be inviting to some in a misogynistic society.  And even as she travels over the next year, long escaping her home and war, she continues to wear her gown in public.  The gown has religious and cultural symbolism but Nadia’s refusal to pray, or even continue to speak her country’s language, begins to annoy Saeed, as he sees this as a contradiction.  Saeed is much more traditional and doesn’t want to forget where he came from, seeking out other refugees who both look like him and speak his language.  While Nadia understands that they may never see their country again, Saeed doesn’t want to lose hope that one day they will return, searching for ways to hold on to his roots in a new world.

What I didn’t like…

I couldn’t think of one thing that I disliked about this book.  It was a fast read, finishing in one day; and, I’ll likely read it again in the future.  Mohsin Hamid has other publications, including Moth Smoke, that I will likely pick up this Summer. 

I hope you enjoy Exit West if you haven’t read it yet.  If you have, feel free to share your thoughts on this novel.  As always, here are additional recommendations on some other refugee stories.

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Pajama Set: Sant and Abel x Donald Robertson Team Immigrant Pajamas available here and here.

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The perfect baby. The perfect life. The perfect crime: The Perfect Mother

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Happy May as we celebrate our first best friends:  Mom, Mommy, Momma, Mother, Madre, Mimi.  The first woman who loved us – dreamed of us – before they even laid eyes on us.  I’m very blessed to still have my mother.  I call her every day, to catch up on how our days went, although she’s retired now, living the senior life in Florida, with days spent by the pool while she watches Days of Our Lives.  I, on the other hand, am usually complaining about the chilling weather in the Northeast, venting about my latest dating escapades, or excitedly bragging about my latest DIY project.

 When you’re young, your mother is perfect.  She is always right – about everything.  She is nurturing and kind, but she is also  cultivating and preparing you for the world.  My mother was my protector, but she didn’t hover.  To me, she was perfect, while I (in hindsight), was spoiled rotten with the latest toys, ballet, cheerleading and swimming lessons.  Now that I’m older, surrounded by friends who are married with toddlers, I have no idea how any of you mothers do it.  You work full-time jobs, without a nanny.  You send your children to daycare, which costs as much as my mortgage.  And, let’s not forget the monthly expenses like clothes, and diapers and formula.  Anything more is a luxury.  None of the mothers I know are perfect, but they do their damned best for their babies.

 I loved The Perfect Mother.  The author, Aimee Molloy, captures the struggles that new mothers face:  sleepless nights, difficulty lactating, intimacy issues with their partner, and post-partum depression.  Winnie, the protagonist, joins the “May Mothers”– a mommy group organized in Brooklyn, for new local moms.  They call themselves the “May Mothers” for the most simplest reason as it sounds: their babies are due in May.  Winnie joined the group for the same reason most women join mommy groups:  seeking a village of commonality.  Despite her introversion, Winnie attends the meetings with her newborn, Midas, for “May Mothers” gatherings at their local park.  Winnie is a single mom, with little help; so, when the “May Mothers” organize a  girls’ night to relieve some new mom stress, Winnie feels anxious about leaving Midas with a sitter for the very first time.  When Midas is kidnapped, this happy-go-lucky gentrified Brooklyn for the “May Mothers” completely turns upside down and each member has secrets waiting to be told.

What I liked… 

I liked how the author went back and forth between the first and the third person.  One minute, you’re outside looking in.  The next minute, you are in the mind of that particular character, absorbing all of their emotions as they feel the panic for their friend, Winnie; but also, the hysteria, confusion and dread as a mother faced with the reality of a missing child in a large city.  Whether you have children or not, you feel for these women as they try to juggle their lives as they once were, and balance their new little one.  I thought the characters were very authentic and loved how Molloy developed each one.

Truthfully, this book reminded me a lot of Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty, based on the book’s format and character voices.  Nonetheless, I think I enjoyed this book more than Big Little Lies, in the sense that once I got through 75% of the latter, the ending became indubitably predictable.  On the other hand, The Perfect Mother had an ending that was completely unexpected, up until the last moment and surprise, everything isn’t as it seems.

What I did not like…

I honestly cannot think of one negative critique for Molloy’s first novel.  I thought the plots and mini plots were very well laid out.  I thought each character’s secrets were exposed in due time.  Most importantly, I thought the surprise ending was worth it. 

Kerry Washington is set to star and produce the film adaptation of The Perfect Mother .  As always, I cannot wait to see her on film and bring this book to life.

Have any of you read this yet?  What are your thoughts?

 

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Get Out Meets Literature: We Cast a Shadow

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If you loved Jordan Peele’s Get Out, then you will love Maurice Carlos Ruffin’s We Cast a Shadow. We Cast a Shadow is post-racial literary fiction. The narrator never shares his name, but you later determine that Ruffin keeps the main character nameless because he truly believes the dejected perception that he is invisible due to his black skin.

The main character is married to “Penny,” a White female who believes in the goodness of the world but acknowledges the existence of inequality. Prior to marrying the main character, she prided herself on attending protests and educating herself on different social causes. She is “woke,” as some would say. After getting married, they have “Nigel,” a charismatic boy that loves both of his parents and has undeniable cooking skills at such a young age. But the protagonist believes that there is something genuinely wrong with his son, Nigel. Nigel has a large birthmark on his face, that spreads to other parts of his fair-skinned body. But it’s not just the birthmark that drives the main character. He believes that Nigel’s Blackness, although more fair skinned than the protagonist, is a detestation that must be removed.

Whenever Nigel leaves the house, the protagonist demands that Nigel cover his head with a baseball cap. According to the main character, the hat not only protects Nigel from UV rays, as the sun can darken people with melanin, but he also does not want strangers to see the dark birthmark on Nigel’s face. He forces Nigel to put a lightening cream on his birthmark every day, hoping that the lotion will eventually dissipate what he thinks is a disgusting deformity that will prevent Nigel from having a full life free from racism and discrimination.

There were so many real life issues that the author addressed — issues that Black parents and children face every day — but presented them with such an extreme imagination that only a literary author could do. For instance, the author addresses childhood bullying, a social phenom that Black children often face when they attend predominately White schools. Although Penny explained that they could send Nigel to a more diverse school, where no one would tease the boy for his brown birthmark, the main character insists that “appearances always matter,” and faultily believed that Nigel should not only be surrounded by as many White children as possible, but also free his body of all traces of melanin.

Then, the protagonist discovers a dermatologist with a new procedure that changes minority persons of color to white. No matter the cost, the main character maintains that Nigel must have the procedure done because removing any traces of his own Blackness within Nigel is protecting him from AmeriKKKa. The main character never acknowledges that the extraction of melanin within Nigel is somewhat a removal of himself within his son, thereby only acknowledging the physical traits of his Caucasian mother. He does’t realize the preposterous and absurdness of his goals for Nigel because he is self-absorbed by the hate he has for his own skin.

Throughout the novel, Ruffin also shares ideals of colorism — the prejudice towards others with dark skin tone within the same ethnic or racial group — where the main character illustrates a disdain towards other Black Americans within his community, characterizing them as inferior despite institutionalized racial discrimination and social misgivings. He demonstrates a long-held debate within the Black community — the refusal to identify as an African American (as opposed to a Black American) due to generations removed from the continent and only feeling conjoined the the Western World.

But would this really even be a complete novel without the obligatory debate within the interracial relationship between the protagonist and Penny regarding racism in America? When the main character defends rubbing the burning cream on his son and planning the “demelanization” procedure, Nigel emphasizes the importance of the imperative “talk” between Black parents and Black children on how to conduct themselves in at all times, particularly in the presence of law enforcement officers. Penny insists that the narrator is paranoid and his revulsion towards he and his son’s blackness is anomalistic. But the main character is unnerved and relentless. When Nigel eventually runs away, the protagonist subsequently has te “demelanization” procedure performed on himself instead and insists that his new identity as a White male has freed him from the horrors of being Black in America only to realize that as a White man he feels invisible once again.

It was then that I realized the distance between us. The talk that all black parents give their children was such an integral part of my upbringing. One night when I wanted to play after dark, Sir and Mama sat me down and basically said, The chances of something like that happening to you are virtually assured.

I thought this book was amazing. The first few chapters were slightly slow but quickly picked up. I couldn’t put the book down. I was so appalled and intrigued by the main character and the demons he attempted to project on his own flesh and blood. There were some parts in the book where Ruffin took real laws (e.g., “"Why the Supreme Court Will Not Be Hearing the Case About a Woman Denied a Job Because of Her Locs”) and presented the protagonist’s America as a dystopia for Black people, as if certain current laws and policies in real life couldn’t be any more systematically oppressive than they already are. I greatly enjoyed this novel and seeing how a creative writer could take real life issues and legal policies turn them into extreme nightmares.

If you’ve already read We Cast a Shadow, what did you think? What do you think of thought provoking satires? Feel free to leave your comments below.

 

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The Future is Female: "The Power" by Naomi Alderman

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Allie, a young runaway in and out of foster care who starts what most would consider a religious cult worshipping Mother Mary or a female God.

 Roxy, a young woman from London, whose father was the head of a local mob gang, until she takes over.

 Margot, an ambitious local politician who steadily climbs the ranks and finds comfort on the national political stage.

 Joselyn, Margot’s daughter, who struggles with her new normalcy, or lack thereof.

 And, Tunde, a male reporter who captures the female revolution around the world.

When the first incidents of women discharging electricity from their bodies is recorded, several men die or are severely injured due to the intensity of the electric shocks.  In addition, women can pass on their skein to other women who have yet to activate their new inner power.  At first, no men have skeins or electrical currents enumerating from their bodies.  Later in the novel, it is revealed that some men, although rare, do have skeins.  Just the same, some women, never develop skeins or do have a skein but their power comes and goes.

What I Liked

I found Margot and Allie to be the most interesting characters in their own rights, with Allie and the voices in her head leading a bunch of girls like sheep.  And Margot, who failed to genuinely help her daughter with her emotional and mental health because she is too blinded by the greed of money and political domination.  Tunde, who initially started out as my least favorite character, was eventually almost raped by a woman who tried to incapacitate him with her electrical shocks.  Tunde showed his vulnerability as both a man – in a woman dominated world – and a journalist, risking his life on every possible terrain, just trying to seize a good story to share with the world.  I thought Tunde was very metaphoric in how women feel on a daily basis, consciously aware of our surroundings at all times, hoping that our precautions will prevent us from falling victim to any attacks simply because we are a woman.  Tunde was constantly both in fear and awe of women, recognizing that a woman could easily and quickly take his life, simply because he was a man.

I also liked how this book illustrates that world domination, simply based on gender, doesn’t necessarily make it a better place.  You often hear people say, “If women ran the world, there’d be no wars.”  The Power gives a “yeah right” to that false assumption, demonstrating that women too can be stupefied by the many forms of power, physical, emotional, mental or financial.  War and the exchange of arms still takes place.  Sexual assault still takes place.  Segregation still takes place.  Even the isolation of women and girls in camps takes place.  The world, in Alderman or “Armon’s” view, didn’t necessarily get better simply because women took over.

What I Did Not Like

I’ll be honest. I do not think this book is the “next Handmaid’s Tale,” as many critics suggest.  It got rave reviews and is about a women led utopia (or dystopia); so, I thought it’d be a cool fictional novel for Women’s History Month.  Sigh.  I could’ve read something a little darker and more gratifying like Stephen King’s “Sleeping Beauties.”  There were several moments in the book where I was bored.  Some characters were more boring than others.  For example, I thought certain characters, like Roxy, were fillers.  Although she eventually crosses paths with Allie, her character didn’t captivate me or make me feel like she provided a major contribution to the overall plot.  I felt like it was a slow read and the excitement really didn’t pick up until I was 200 pages in.  I thought that the description of how the women feel, when they use their power, could’ve been more detailed.  The author could’ve dug a little deeper.  Is it worth reading? Sure.  Is it something that I want to read again? No.  Nonetheless, I’m sure there’s already a sequel and movie in the works.

 

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After the Storm by Nisia Skyy

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After the Storm

By Nisia Skyy

After the Storm by Nisia Skyy is a Michael Douglas “Fatal Attraction” or “Basic Instinct” novel gone wrong. Brooke and Rashad were high school sweethearts until, like many young lovers, became caught up in the real world and ended things shortly after starting college. Unbeknownst to them, their lives would cross paths again, in more ways than one, thanks to running in similar circles in Atlanta, Georgia. Even though both Rashad and Brooke each moved on physically in new relationships, they both held on to their past love, repeatedly self-sabotaging their new relationships.

What I Liked…

I wasn’t expecting this novel to have some suspense. That was a pleasant surprise for me considering I am a lover of psychological thrillers and mysteries. Rashad ends up having a stalker, which starts to put a wrench in his bachelor lifestyle. But when he and Brooke cross paths again later in graduate school, this stalker becomes more than a headache and you find yourself not wanting to put the book down to see if either of their lives are in danger.

I also liked Rashad’s underlying story — having a difficult relationship with his father — thereby causing the character to distance himself from his parents, his father’s church and subsequently his faith. I also liked how the author revealed why Rashad has intimacy and trust issues as an adult, stemming from his childhood; and, illustrating how a family secret can damage multiple persons across generations and familial lines.

What I didn’t Like…

I would have liked Rashad’s stalker, Natalie, to have been developed more for the reader. The author gave a brief background describing the start of her erratic behavior; but that part of the book lacked depth. I felt like there were so many layers to Natalie and she was a major factor in helping Rashad come to terms with his behavior in culminating toxic sexual relationships.

I would recommend Nisia Skyy’s first novel. I thought the story was very relatable. I completely felt like I was Brooke in graduate school and I had dated Rashad back then as well. I loved how both characters struggled with their faith and the realism in questioning your own path and whether or not you are living at your best. Equally important, this book was about forgiveness; forgiving not just people who hurt you, but also remembering to forgive yourself, when you left yourself down. Both Rashad and Brooke had a hard time forgiving themselves, for very different reasons; but, in the end, their trying times were only temporary, eluding to the author’s title.

You can purchase After the Storm here.

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