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When All Hell Breaks Loose: A Novel Hardcover – September 2, 1999


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New Adult Fiction by Rainbow Rowell
Acclaimed author Rainbow Rowell's latest book, Landline, offers a poignant, humorous look at relationships and marriage. Learn more

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Villard; 1st edition (September 2, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375503404
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375503405
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (126 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,086,650 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

When Gregory Alston proposes to Adrian, his girlfriend of three years, he thinks it's the last chapter of the story, like the happy ending of a fairy tale. But his troubles are just beginning. What with the wedding preparations, his churchy sister Shreese's unsettling new love affair, and the feelings stirred by the return of his jazz singer mother from her long residence in France, Greg doesn't seem to see much of his fiancée anymore. And for some reason, she isn't complaining. When All Hell Breaks Loose is a fast, fun novel written in a light, conversational style, a good introduction to the new black fiction for readers who might otherwise be looking to television or movies for engaging, three-dimensional images of young African Americans. Alston's male friends--from the dread-wearing Jamal to the foul-mouthed Phil and the woman-hating player Tim--are especially well drawn, and Greg's conflicted emotions about his mother, who abandoned the family to pursue her musical career, will strike home for anyone who knows a wounded young man. "I don't know," Greg muses,
Sometimes I think that because I got my degree and ain't slangin' drugs or laid up with children all over the city calling me Daddy, all the hurt and damage I felt as a boy just aren't there. But every time I come across a situation where a mother is not in her child's everyday life or am faced with my own personal dilemma with my mother, I just want to start running. Running so fast, until the wind can no longer get to my lungs quick enough to keep me standing.
Camika Spencer's fledgling effort was originally self-published, then picked up by a major publisher when the buzz reached New York. It still needs a little editing, and there are no great lessons in the book--nothing in Greg's past could have prepared him for the betrayal in his future, just as the betrayal can't teach him anything worth knowing. But the quick pace and lively characterization show the author's promise. --Regina Marler

From Publishers Weekly

A young black man's family, friends and future are at the center of Spencer's thin contemporary debut novel. After three years of dating, Dallas hairdresser Adrian Jenkins agrees to marry Gregory Alston, a successful computer consultant. Narrator Gregory shares his good fortune with his church-going younger sister, Shreese, and his father, Adolphus, who raised Greg and Shreese alone, after his wife, Louise, left the family years ago to pursue her jazz career in Europe. Upon hearing the news, Louise returns immediately to the U.S., taking up residence in her former home and rekindling her relationship with Adolphus. While reacquainting himself with his mother, Greg also watches the developing relationship between Shreese and the Reverend Ulan Dixon, a slick and suspect preacher. Though Greg resents the way his mother abandoned the family, his anger begins to fade as he begins to understand her motivation. Meanwhile, Greg's relationship with Adrian deteriorates when Adrian's maid of honor, Carla Perrone, arrives in town. Carla begins to date Greg's best friend Tim, which bothers Adrian in a way Greg can't understand. The novel climaxes with two simultaneous crises, in which Dixon pulls off a cruel swindle and Greg makes a shocking discovery about Adrian's sexual orientation. Foreshadowing is heavy, so the pivotal discovery is not as surprising as it should be, and Greg's first-person narration is excessively sprinkled with brand names and popular references. Spencer's enthusiasm for her story is clear, but fuller characterizations and a more nuanced take on sensitive issues would have greatly improved an otherwise ordinary novel. Author tour. (Sept.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

Peace and blessings!
Tracy Price-Thompson
This is a well written book with a good storyline and an excellent twist at the end.
Nanette Sims
This book is a page turner.
"dk100495"

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Pamela Stone on July 28, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Camika Spencer's debut novel is about black twenty something. It is fast and funny. The author will have you laughing and looking in the mirror to see if she's talking about you (whether you're black or white).
On a Sunday morning Gregory Alston has asked Adrian Jenkins to marry him, but when he does all hell breaks loose and he gets more than he bargained for. His mother returns from France, where she has been living since she left the family 20 years ago. His Holy Roller sister Shreese thinks that Adrain is too worldly for Gregory. His dad has locked himself in the bathroom and refuses to come out after his dog dies. His son thinks he is just plain crazy. And if that isn't enough he has Adrain who has more skeletons in her closet than a haunted house. What's a brother to do?
I get the impression that the author, who is black, wrote this book for a black audience. But after reading it I feel it could be about any American family. I know all can enjoy it. What a wonderful read this was. If you liked the movie SOUL FOOD you will love this book.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Yasmin Coleman on May 31, 2000
Format: Hardcover
When All Hell Breaks Loose is a page-turning, entertaining, hilarious, easy to read novel written from the main character, Gregory Alston's perspective. In the midst of preparing for his wedding, Gregory is trying to keep it all together while those close to him appear to be falling apart. His sister, Shreese is carrying on in a scandalous love affair and his mom is back on the scene for his wedding and to rekindle the fire with her husband and a mother-dear relationship with her now grown children. Of course, we can't forget Gregory's male cronies who bring a new meaning to the word dysfunctional or Adrian his fiancee who "has more skeletons in her closet than a haunted house."
I enjoyed When All Hell Breaks Loose and Believe that as Ms. Spencer matures/grows as a writer so will her writing skills; HOWEVER, as a first time writer she's included all the elements which make a book entertaining....crafty/vivid scenes, witty dialogue, interesting characters... and managed to tell a predictable plot in a humorous manner. Additionally, Ms. Spencer was able to tell the story from a male perspective and add sub-plots that smoothly fit into the storyline.
I agree that Ms. Spencer writing reaches folks who probably wouldn't think of picking up a book for pleasure; however, When All Hell Breaks Loose even had some of the 40-something, love to read crowd LOLROTF(laughing out loud rolling on the floor)....and that suits me just fine.
If You Want To Forget About the Responsibilities of Today and Don't Take Yourself Too Serious Then Check Out Ms. Spencers book.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By "savvyblackreader" on June 2, 2000
Format: Hardcover
HELL-o! This book had me crackin' up! I read WHEN ALL HELL BREAKS LOOSE over one weekend. I thought my weekend was going to be boring because I had nothing to do, well it was just the opposite. I have never laughed so hard while reading a book in my life!
Camika Spencer has such a unique talent of being able to express life from the male perspective, which is very challenging for a female author to do, which is all-the-more reason to have respect for such bright author.
Gregory Alston, the main character, has it all; a fiance, a promising career, a cool posse to hang with and a strong sense of self-esteem. All hell breaks loose when the women in his life start to wear him down. Greg's sister goes even more church-crazy than she already is, his runaway mother returns and fiance unleashes the key to hell for Gregory when her true colors fly and she gets caught.
I guarantee the fact that every woman who is looking for a good man or believes that a good man is hard to find will want to slap Greg's fiance, Adrian, by the time she has read the entire novel. Why? Well, you'd have to read it to find out.
WHEN ALL HELL BREAKS LOOSE is also great because it is what I call a unisex book, meaning that it's enjoyable to both men and women. I thoroughly enjoyed the fact that after I read this book I could not only talk to other women about it; but that I could converse with men about it as well.
I look forward to more work from Camika Spencer.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 11, 2002
Format: Hardcover
After reading many(good)reviews for this book, I decided to check it out at the library. I think the book was overrated. There were some good moments, but it seemed like the book was put together over night.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By "srwilliams04" on July 1, 2002
Format: Paperback
This book is about a 29 year old man, Greg, who proposes to his girlfriend of three years, Adrian. Greg believes that everything is great until all HELL breaks loose. First his sister, Shereese, begins to date a bogus minister from her church. Then all of a sudden Greg's mother comes back to Dallas for his wedding. It doesn't sound that bad, but it's a problem for Greg because the last time he saw her was nineteen years ago, before she left to go to France to pursue her singing career. To top it off, Greg finds out something about Adrian that is going to shock him and change the way he feels about the love of his life.
I had a good time reading this book. It took me like a day and a half to finish because I couldn't stop laughing at Greg's friends. It's pretty cool how Camika Spencer can get into a mans head and write this book. If you didn't know who the author was, you would think that it was a man writing this book. Overall, I recommend this book to those that have a sense of humor and just want to read an easy book after they have read something mind blowing.
:)
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