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A Journey Straight To The Heart...,
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This review is from: Nowhere Is a Place (Hardcover)
Bernice L. McFadden's latest release, Nowhere Is A Place, centers on a journey of discovery that spans across country, generations, and time. No nonsense, down-to-earth Dumpling and her distant, bohemian daughter, Sherry, have a long history of misunderstanding and miscommunication. So when Sherry unexpectedly suggests a road trip from Paradise, Nevada to a family reunion in Sanderville, Georgia, both readers and Dumpling are in store for an eye-opening experience where family secrets are exposed after a lifetime of suppression.
Unbeknownst to Dumpling, Sherry plans to use the time to delve into the family history to find a source of her lifelong angst stemming from an unwarranted slap in the face. A slap received from her mother years before as she was sitting innocently in her Great Uncle Vonnie's lap. Suspecting Dumpling may be a reluctant participant, Sherry cleverly begins penning a hypothetical story (of their family history) in a notebook and asks Dumpling for comments and tests her reactions at the conclusion of each passage.
Sherry's story-within-a-story of their ancestors is equally (if not more so) engaging than the road trip itself. Sherry begins with the capture and enslavement of their oldest known matriarch, Nayeli (renamed Lou after the slave master's deceased beloved family dog) from her Indian village into the American slave trade. As they travel from city to city (which ironically are symbolic to their family history), Sherry continues to write more segments that involve the bewitching Suce (Dumpling's grandmother), the conniving vamp, Lillie (Dumpling's mother), and many other notable relatives. These stories stimulate a long overdue dialogue between mother and daughter bridging their emotional gap and allowing them to bond in ways that have always eluded them. As they near their destination and as the family genealogy progresses into modern day, Sherry carefully and skillfully forces Dumpling to acknowledge and address a dark, dirty family secret.
McFadden's writing is as sharp as it has always been complete with her layered storytelling style, character depth and her resplendent ability to "take you there." The horrors, ugliness and heartbreaking aspects of slavery are not spared and the author pulls on the reader's emotions through these difficult, dark, and violent episodes; however, it balances well with her depiction of the cleverness, courage, sacrifices and ingenuity the Lessing family ancestors embodied to overcome it. After learning their history, it is no doubt that these women have inherited strength and wisdom to survive anything, even the secret Sherry is withholding from Dumpling.
Reviewed by Phyllis
Nubian Circle Book Club