Fate deals sisters Marcella and Raquel completely different lives in Kimberla Lawson Roby's Here and Now
. Determined to give her children a better life, Marcella struggles to find financial stability without the aid of her unreliable ex-husband, Tyrone. When she stretches herself too thin between her job and full-time college classes, Marcella refuses to question her decision despite the negative effects it's having on her children. The promise of her new romance with a medical student named Darryl, and the support of her family encourage her to continue. But when Tyrone threatens to withhold his meager support, Marcella feels her careful balance starting to topple--sending her into a cycle of anger and aggression with Tyrone that threatens her own health as well as her relationship with Darryl.
Sister Raquel has the unconditional love and support of her husband, Kevin, yet she aches to have a child of her own. After years of fruitless efforts, Kevin is willing to consider fertility treatment or adoption, but Raquel refuses to give up on natural methods, and swears they need just one more chance. Her blind lack of realism starts to wear on Kevin, and their relationship begins to fray. When Raquel finally agrees to treatment, their marriage is subsumed by the effort, and they lose sight of each other. A pregnancy brings renewed hope, but have they already lost each other? Here and Now offers a poignant story of two women struggling to define their future and learning to value the present. Mundane details and an unexpected dream sequence may frustrate readers, but the appeal of Roby's strong characters and realistic issues outweigh any faults the book may have, making this an enjoyable and thought-provoking read. --Nancy R.E. O'Brien
From Publishers Weekly
The soap operatic plot of Kimberla Lawson Roby's second novel (Behind Closed Doors) revolves around the lives of two African-American sisters, Marcella and Racquel. Teacher Racquel threatens the stability of her four-year marriage with her determination to conceive a child. She is both critical and jealous of Marcella, who married immediately after high school to legitimize her baby. Marcella's situation is hardly enviable, though, as she struggles on minimum wage and scant child support to raise two children in a suburban Chicago project. Racquel and her husband mortgage their house to pay for infertility treatments, while Marcella decides to go to college with hopes of becoming a CPA. Untidy human dilemmas (i.e., Marcella's discovery of her 13-year-old daughter's diary with its innocent revelations of her budding sexuality) backlight the sisters' larger struggles with marriage, money, sex and family bonds. Each chapter ends in a crescendo of melodrama, emphasized by a chorus of slamming telephones and doors, and a proliferation of unusual deaths. Though the novel provides a window on a distinctive segment of American society, its breezy, colloquial vocabulary and propensity for hype and stereotype satisfy as little as a couch-potato's snack. Doubleday Book Club featured alternate; author tour.
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