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The Warmest December [Kindle Edition]

Bernice L. McFadden , James Frey
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (188 customer reviews)

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Book Description

"McFadden's reissued second novel takes an unflinching look at the corrosive nature of alcoholism . . . This is not a story of easy redemption . . . McFadden writes candidly about the treacherous hold of addiction."
--Publishers Weekly

"Riveting. . . . So nicely avoids the sentimentality that swirls around the subject matter. I am as impressed by its structural strength as by the searing and expertly imagined scenes."
--Toni Morrison, author of Beloved

"The sharpness of the prose and power of the story make it hard to stop reading even the most brutal scenes . . . The story feels real perhaps because it’s familiar . . . Or maybe, as Frey points out, the story is too vivid to be read purely as fiction. But in this Precious-style novel, genre is the least of our concerns."
--Bust magazine

"This is a story that cuts across all race and social strata in its need to be told."
--The Dallas Morning News

The Warmest December is the incredibly moving story of one Brooklyn family and the alcoholism that determined years of their lives. Narrated by Kenzie Lowe, a young woman reminiscent of Jamaica Kincaid's Annie John, as she visits her dying father and finds that choices she once thought beyond her control are very much hers to make.

Bernice L. McFadden is the author of seven critically acclaimed novels.

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

"Now and then I forget things.... One day last week I forgot that I hated my father... " McFadden's graphic, poignant second novel (following her praised debut, Sugar) charts the resonating legacy that alcoholic parents pass on to their children through the cycle of addiction and domestic violence. Narrator Kenzie Lowe, an African-American woman in her 30s on welfare, has used alcohol to repress the memories of abuse she suffered growing up in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, caught in the physical and emotional grip of her whiskey-swilling father, Hyman Lowe. As Hy-Lo (a name that reflects his erratic mood swings) lies comatose in his hospital bed, dying of liver disease, Kenzie finds herself in the grip of buried memories. Deftly evoking the turbulence of Kenzie's tormented recollections, McFadden builds tension as Kenzie's subconscious releases events from a fearful childhood dominated by Hy-Lo's sadistic punishments. Incidents where he burned a cigarette into her palm, broke her ribs with lashes from his belt, knocked out her mother's teeth and terrorized her brother, effectively causing his death, graphically illustrate a child's powerlessness in the grip of an appallingly abusive parent. Seamless transitions between Kenzie's past and her present life anchored by AA sessions imbue this difficult tale with dramatic suspense. While McFadden's decision to tie up loose ends into a neatly contrived ending may seem facile, its cathartic message of forgiveness and recovery will elicit tears. Agent, James Vines. (Jan. 15)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Kenzie Lowe, a young woman struggling to overcome alcoholism, is compelled to visit her dying father, a pathetic and contemptible character, an alcoholic, and a wife and child abuser. She is compelled by impulses she herself can't explain. Through flashbacks to her violent and miserable youth, Kenzie recalls her family's past: Hy-Lo, the violent abuser; Della, the compliant wife; and Kenzie and Malcolm, the submissive children, until adolescence. She, at least, escaped for a while to boarding school. Her family, however, didn't escape the deterioration until a tragedy breaks the bond between husband and wife. Kenzie has waited practically her whole life for her father to die, but now that the time has come she finds her hate changing to compassion and forgiveness. She learns the secret of her father's childhood, one much like her own, and begins to understand, forgive, and heal her own sickness. This is a sad and touching novel about abuse and alcoholism from the author of Sugar (2000). Vanessa Bush
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • File Size: 456 KB
  • Print Length: 254 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0452282918
  • Publisher: Akashic Books (January 31, 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B006MGL6U4
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #188,389 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Depressing But A Literary Masterpiece! January 26, 2001
Once again Bernice McFadden is on the scene and takes us to a place which vividly surpasses our wildest imaginations and makes us question whether The Warmest December is fiction or real life. Step Into Kenzie's world, where you discover a childhood lived in fear with an abusive and alcoholic father, Hyman Lowe aka Hy-Lo. Imagine Kenzie's childhood where most days were filled with sadness, pain, anger, harm and too many issues/situations that a child shouldn't have to live with. And then come full circle to One Warm December, where Hy-Lo/the Teflon man lay dying in a County Hospital, very much alone, estranged from family and himself. It starts on one cold winter morning, Kenzie is drawn by some unbeknownst force (maybe it was compassion, maybe it was pity for an old man who could no longer harm her) to take two buses daily to the hospital to be at the bedside of whats left of Hy-Lo. Hard-living had taken its toll on him and he was now a simple shell of the man he used to be: a man who was like Teflon and took to the bottle every day of his life to stifle out any emotions that tried to leak through when he was sober...which wasn't often. He was a man who was so horrible, that at the age of 5, Kenzie would start hating him and everyday of her life she would wish he was dead. A man who was like Teflon because he didnt allow anyone to get close enough to close the hole in his chest or the space near his heart. As Kenzie visits Hy-Lo and sits and waits for death to have its way with her father, she reminisces regarding yesteryears, and the memories of the past are filled with years of pain, hurt, abuse, anger and sorrow brought on by the wrath of Hyman Lowe. The wrath affected all of those who lived in Apt. Read more ›
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
The Warmest December by Bernice L. McFadden is a very haunting, depressing tale of life in home with an abusive alcoholic father. This is the haunting, depressing tale of a mother who wants her kids to have a better childhood than she did even if it means she has to suffer physical and mental abuse. This is the haunting, depressing tale that some people live with every day of their life.
In The Warmest December, I met Kenzie (our narrator), Della (her timid mother), Malcolm (her younger brother) and Hyman Lowe better known as HyLo (the father, the alcohlic, the tormentor). The story starts out with Kenzie telling us that she almost forgot she hated her father. She forgot how the sound of her mother's crying ate holes inside of her and ripped a space open near her heart. Those words pulled me into the story the way the unknown forced pulled Kenzie to the death bed of HyLo the father she's hated since she was 5...the father she's wished would just die and let everyone be happy. As Kenzie sits and watches her father or at least the shell of the man she has hated for so long she reminisces about her childhood. She tries to remember happy times but all her memories are filled with hurt, pain, abuse, anger, hatred, and sheer sadness that no one should have to deal with. Kenzie remembers the shouting, the bruises, the banging on the walls, the trips to the liquor store for HyLo, and the smell of gin and vodka that was ever present on HyLo's breathe.
I know none of what I've written so far will make you run to the nearest store and pick up this book but I will be the first to tell you that you should do just that. Why would I tell you to go out and buy this book? I'm telling you that because this book contains two lessons that everyone should learn.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Contemporary story with a classic feel March 8, 2001
The Warmest December paints a vivid and sorrowful picture of the life of Kenzie, a young woman whose alcoholic father is hospitalized and hovering at death's door. His daughter seemingly does not like her father, doesn't really know him, yet she visits him frequently perhaps to bring some closure to their painful relationship. As a child she endured beatings, humiliations, and other equally tragic events all at the hands of Hy-Lo, her drunken father. Kenzie and her younger brother are forced to observe how Hy-Lo abuses his wife, a woman who seems bound to him not just in name but other inexplicable and invisible reasons.
This was my first Bernice McFadden read and I enjoyed the lyricism and imagery of her writing. McFadden takes an abundance of words to draw, paint, shape, and sketch her characters. Her technique and skill allows the reader to delve deep within the story and feel their sorrow, share their pain. Also there are a lot of characters in this story and some stand out (e.g. Priscilla) and refuse to leave your mind long after the story has ended.
The story's timeframe jumped from past to present without warning and I'll admit this did result in a little confusion on my part. But nevertheless, the story is tightly written, impressive, and may give one a few things to think about - family, pain, misunderstanding, the price of forgiveness, and the struggle of redemption.
Cydney Rax
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars No Sugar Coating Here August 21, 2001
The Warmest December by Bernice McFadden deals with the detrimental effects of alcoholism... how the disease and its negative effects on the human spirit spread from one generation to the next. I appreciate the fact that Bernice McFadden did not sugarcoat the associated physical and mental abuse that alcoholism caused for Kenzie Lowe (the main character) and her family.
At the tender age of 5, Kenzie wished death upon the book's alcoholic culprit. As an adult, before her childhood wish is granted, Kenzie realizes the causes of the culprit's disease, which lead to her own.
We all know or have had to deal first-hand with people who suffer from alcoholism and, in many cases, have been negatively effected by their disease. After reading this book, the pain, hurt, guilt, and shame that the disease has imposed can be released, allowing one to move forward.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Don't Rush
This book started out interested. The end was not all that interested. I wish the writing had ended this book with same interest as the beginning. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars I felt like part of the Lowe family
This book was very well written! The heart breaking story of Kenzie and her dad HyLo seemed to come alive as the characters developed. This story touched my heart. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Islandia McIntyre
5.0 out of 5 stars Disturbing and enlightening
This is a powerful story of a family torn apart by alcoholism. At times it is very difficult to read but it is never cloying. It is honest and sad. Read more
Published 2 months ago by JWW
4.0 out of 5 stars Good book.
Well written with a story to match. Lots of things most of us would rather not think about but are never the less part of many lives. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Judy Gallen
5.0 out of 5 stars McFadden strikes gold again...
What a painful story, and yet it was beautifully crafted. In the end...McFadden allows each of her characters to be humanized, rather than simply marginally defined by their... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars Very well written
I had a very hard time getting through this book. Not because it's poorly written, but because the subject matter was emotionally charging. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Heart Wrenching and beautifully written.
As an adult child of an alchoholic I have come to realize how complex our relationships with our families of origin can be. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Theresa Young
4.0 out of 5 stars Left me wanting more.
The book was a great story. I wish it would have ended differently. I felt like there was more information readers would have wanted to know.
Published 5 months ago by Racquel Watson
3.0 out of 5 stars Amazing imagery
I gave it 3 stars. It didn't move me as much as My Name is Butterfly did, but was a good story all the same. I liked how description she was in her writing. Read more
Published 8 months ago by mischiam
4.0 out of 5 stars Praise for McFadden!
For those who suffer abuse, for those who know the sufferers, this was written for you. This is a true testimony of the cycle of physical and substance abuse that far too many are... Read more
Published 9 months ago by D. Cohen
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More About the Author

I am mother, daughter, sister and friend. All I've ever wanted was to be happy. Writing makes me happy.

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