From Publishers Weekly
Solemn and occasionally maudlin, this first novel by the author of the acclaimed memoir The Prisoner's Wife tells a tragic, too-familiar story: a promising young African-American is mistakenly shot by the police in Brooklyn, N.Y. Nineteen-year-old Aya has been getting her life together after a brush with the law and is working hard to earn a college degree. Only the coolness of her beautiful, distant single mother, Miriam, prevents her from being truly happy. When Aya is gravely wounded, Miriam is forced to face her own past and examine her emotionally arid life. Shifting focus rather clumsily, Bandele chronicles Miriam's strict upbringing and forbidden romance with sweet Bird, an ambitious janitor. Miriam loses Bird just before Aya is born, and when Aya is taken from her, too, she resorts to violence. Though she ends up in prison, she is finally able to tentatively connect with others again, meditating on a line by Aya's favorite poet, Sonia Sanchez: "I shall become a collector of me/ And put meat on my soul." Bandele tells her story in simple language, though plaintive asides ("have you ever told me a joke, Mommy, or kissed me just because?"), and italicized laments ("Oh God, didn't I pay with Bird?") give the novel a sentimental veneer. Bandele's low-key take on a grim aspect of the urban black experience stands in refreshing contrast to more sensationalistic renditions, but Miriam's muddled final epiphany will leave readers wishing for something more.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
A black mother's rage and sorrow drive this passionate first novel about a beloved daughter shot dead by the police on the streets of Brooklyn. The story begins with smart college student Aya Rivers chafing at her controlling, secretive mother, Miriam. Out running one day, Aya is shot dead by a policeman. It's a case of mistaken identity. No one is accountable. Then the story switches to Miriam, alone, remembering her break from her
cold, secretive home and her love for Aya's dad, Bird. Aya never knew him, never knew that he survived Vietnam only to be shot dead by the police in the war at home. Bandele, an editor for Essence
magazine and author of the memoir The Prisoner's Wife
(1999), writes about family grief and bitterness with searing immediacy. Woven into the mother-daughter story, Bird's life of hope and heartbreak is beautifully told, his dreams of college, family, and work destroyed even before his murder. The angry message is sometimes overwhelming, but this powerful story does what the author asks for: it breaks the silence. Hazel RochmanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved