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Aunt Nellie B Kindle Edition
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|Length: 289 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
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"Children of Blood and Bone"
Tomi Adeyemi conjures a stunning world of dark magic and danger in her West African-inspired fantasy debut. Learn more
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Top customer reviews
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A first-person narrative, the novel begins with the mature Nellie, a writer, learning that her son wants to move her to a retirement community. There’s no apparent reason for this. Nellie seems vigorous and more than able to look after herself. At the same time, the death of her favorite aunt (also named Nellie) leads her to reconnect with other family members. She discovers one of her nieces is missing and set out to find her.
Nellie begins reading a journal she kept as a girl. In it her name is Charlotte (Charli). The reason for the change remains a mystery for some time.
Portions of the journal are interwoven with events in the present and remembrances of Charli's disastrous marriage to the son of a sultan in the 1960s. She manages to escape her domineering husband, but he follows her to the United States to bring her back. Despite his professions of love, he seems less interested in her than in the child she carries. His child.
The retirement home puzzle, the search of the missing niece, and the conflict with the husband are all highly suspenseful. The girlhood journal not so much. It mainly uncovers the roots of the narrator's character and introduces readers to her extended family, some of whom figure in later events. By using journal entries to juxtapose past and present events, Hallaj reveals surprising connections between them. And the journal provides a showcase for the author's considerable talent for narrative voice and characterization. Hallaj makes Charli’s girlhood voice distinctly different from her adult voices.
The problem is, the journal occupies more than its share of the novel since young Charli meanders and describes at great length. One meal cooked by the senior Aunt Nellie takes a very long paragraph, and the wedding of a cousin goes on for too many pages. When Charli/Nellie finishes reading the journal, she draws conclusions that were obvious long before. Laying out these conclusions at the end of the novel, like “the moral of the story,” comes off as heavy handed.
I found the narrative structure frustrating. I kept wishing for the overlong journal entries to end so I could reengage with the more suspenseful plot lines. But the novel's strengths far outweigh its shortcomings. Aunt Nellie B is well written with crisp prose and some memorable images and characters. Overall it's a pleasure to read.
Dixanne took on a very challenging method of storytelling for Aunt Nellie B and triumphed. This story could have so easily become lost in the confusion of when an event happened or how it fit in with other events, but Dixanne handled the complexities with mastery. Her separation of child voice, young woman voice, and old woman voice continued to be both separate and unified in the character speaking them. I could believe that young Charli wrote the diary and the voice of old Charli came out just as distinct as her older self. Instead of confusing me, the style increased my anticipation of what came next and in what timeline.
I loved the personal dynamics and relationship of the all of the characters in Dixanne's story. She crossed social and cultural boundaries with fluid ease. Charli's family felt like real, dynamic people, and the main character's insights into their personalities gave them a lot of depth. When the author introduced a fantastic element of her story, the characters all expressed their doubts and disbeliefs. I found that delightful! Their little quirks such as switching to Spanish when discussing secrets, or fears that divided them, made them feel like a real family.
Dixanne has written a fascinating and thoroughly enjoyable story of personal tragedy, courage, and redemption. I approve this title for Awesome Indies. [...]
I received this book from the author for the purposes of an unbiased review.