There were many ways to be alienated from someone, few to actually belong.
i know it looks like i’m over here five-
starr catting a lot of books in a row all of a sudden, but it’s not so much that i’ve lucked into a run of excellent reading choices as it is me finally sitting down to review books so good it’s been intimidating me to even think about reviewing them.
ALTHOUGH—if we’re being super-duper honest, Blacktop Wasteland and Betty were both 4s going in (but 4.5s in my heart) that got bumped up to fives when rereading them for the review made me remember how dingdang good they were. this one was a five out of the gate.
it’s so good i don’t even know where to start. it’s a family saga that takes place over the course of forty or so years, beginning in 1938 with the birth of twin sisters stella and desiree vignes in the town of mallard, louisiana; a black community with an unusual beginning:
The idea arrived to Alphonse Decuir in 1848, as he stood in the sugarcane fields he’d inherited from the father who’d once owned him. The father now dead, the now-freed son wished to build something on those acres of land that would last for centuries to come. A town for men like him, who would never be accepted as white but refused to be treated like Negroes. A third place.
the residents embraced their founder’s dream of a more perfect Negro. Each generation lighter than the one before, and by the time the vignes girls—his great-great-great-granddaughters—are born, his bloodline has been bleached into “creamy skin, hazel eyes, [and] wavy hair,” none of which attributes protect them from racism; from seeing their father lynched in their home when they are little girls, or from race factoring into their lives and shaping their opportunities when they run away from home as teenagers.
they live together in new orleans for a few years before stella abruptly cuts ties with her sister and disappears into a new life that she will live as a white woman—marrying a wealthy white man and raising a daughter who has no idea she’s anything but white. meanwhile, desiree will leave the abusive father of her own daughter and move back to mallard, her child’s exceptional darkness there unexpected, unwelcome.
eventually, three generations of paths will cross, secrets will be discovered, everyone’ll have to address their choices.
honestly, i don’t want to blah and blah about plot—i always spend way too much time on silly reviews, writing 20-page dissertations on minutiae that nobody cares about but meeeee before deleting all of it anyway and i need to stop being foolish with my time and learn to do things in miniaturized efficiency when i’m not getting paid.
but i will say that this is a tremendous second novel after a really impressive debut and bennett writes beautifully about family and grief and identity and being deeply, unbearably lonely—the loneliness of the estranged twins, the self-othering loneliness isolating stella from her old life and in her new one, the loneliness of growing up dark in a colorstruck town etc etc. i’m doing it again so i’m gonna shut myself up now because i loved every little bit of this novel and we could be here all day if i don’t put a stop to it now.
The Mothers was good, this one is GOLD.
review to come ASAP.
my SECOND goodreads-win of 2020!!
this is the only good thing in the world right now.