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If Sons, Then Heirs: A Novel Hardcover – April 19, 2011

4.0 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Cary tells a complex story of family, race, and the challenges of reconciling the present with a persistent past. Alonzo Rayne was raised in South Carolina by his great-grandmother, Selma. Now he owns a construction business in Philadelphia and lives with Lillie, a single mom, and her seven-year-old son, Khalil. As the story begins, Khalil accompanies Alonzo to South Carolina where Alonzo urges the aging Selma to sell her land so they can pay for her long-term care. But she hasn't owned the land since King, her husband, died almost 50 years ago; Selma was King's second wife, not an heir, and this unforeseen fact, combined with ancient, racist inheritance laws, makes for a sticky situation. And Alonzo's mother suddenly wanting to reconnect after years of abandonment further complicates matters; her marriage to the white man she met after abandoning her son turned her life around. Finally, Alonzo's investigation into his great-grandmother's land puts him on a collision course with the men who brought about his great-grandfather's violent end. Cary (Black Ice) pairs generations of loving, and loyal individuals with social history, making for an absorbing and moving tale. (May)
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Review

“Every single character pops off the page in this amazing story. This masterwork of a novel made me laugh and cry out loud. Important, enjoyable, and wonderfully moving. An absolute delight.”

--Carleen Brice, author of Orange Mint and Honey and Children of the Waters
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Atria Books (April 19, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 145161022X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1451610222
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,781,158 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This was a great read. The characters were so real, that I found myself thinking about them as if they were people that I actually knew. The author does an amazing job of drawing the reader into their thoughts, conflicts, and emotions. I also loved how she merged historical events with the present day. I have never written a review before, but I loved this book so much that I felt compelled to do so. I also lent this book to my mother, who never reads, but she could not put it down. It is one of those rare books that is so good that you are torn between reading it all in one sitting or pacing yourself, because you don't want it to end.
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Format: Hardcover
First of all, I would like to say that I'm a big fan of Lorene Cary. I was reading her work early on, and have recommended her over the years to many people who had never heard of her. That said, If Sons then Heirs was a good book, but not a great one. What's good: well defined and admirable (but not perfect) main characters that the reader can really cheer for. The novel also provides positive representations of the black family without being unrealistic or overly romantic. The happy ending is a great bonus. That said, this is a hybridized novel: it's not an epic family novel spanning generations, nor is it entirely a modern-day novel. Cary tried to incorporate elements of both, and it didn't work for me. The majority of the characters in the Needham family (and there are a lot of them) exist only in people's memories or in conversation, making things very confusing. As a reader, it's hard for me to care about characters who really don't participate in the action. The flashbacks attempt to provide some explanation, but often add to the confusion instead. The central conflict of sorting out the land's ownership is resolved quickly (and a little too neatly) in just a few pages at the end of the book, and the secondary issue of assisting the elderly family matriarch is left murky. Another minor problem for me is the profanity. I avoid the currently popular urban fiction genre for this reason and found it mostly unnecessary. This story would have worked much better as an epic novel. That way the reader could have developed a relationship with all the characters and dramatic irony could have been used in Rayne's fact finding mission. I would recommend it, but not as strongly as the author's previous work.
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Format: Hardcover
IF SONS THEN HEIRS A NOVEL by LORENE CARY

A NOVEL

"If we know that the past also lies in the present, we understand that we are able to change the past by transforming the present."

From Philadelphia to South Carolina I followed this Family saga. At each turn of the page a character would leap on my heart and turn it upside down whether for good or bad. There is Nana Selma. She is Rayne's grandmother. Although dealing with the physical hardships of aging, the land remains uppermost in her mind. In her mind the land is the place where family can come whenever they need to retreat from the rat race in the big cities of the North. The land is to be their fortress. Each character, Jewel, Lillie, Jones, Bobo, King and all of the other characters, named and unnamed, are striving to survive life. . The hostile and sometimes brutal past is a part of a family's daily present. There are murders, beatings, raging fires and the ugly mad man lynching treated as a sport to act out hatred. Also, there is the need to fall back on "passing" even if the shame causes denial. There is interracial marriage. Whatever happens historically or in the present community is as real as the voice from the silent past. For example, there is Claude McKay's poem.

"If we must die, O let us nobly die, So that our precious blood may not be shed In vain; then even the monsters we defy Shall be constrained to honor us though dead!"

However, through all the ups and downs there is unconditional love cycling back and forth to cleanse and forgive the ugly sinful pass. Thank goodness because Khalil is in need of this restoration. He is one of the next generation. He is Jewel's little boy. He is loved deeply by Jewel's Rayne, although Khalil is not his biological son.
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Format: Hardcover
I enjoyed the first two-hundred pages, liked the development of the various relationships and the set up. But the whole conflict about the property, which took up most of the last 100 pages, had no interest for me. It was didactic. Who owned what? When? Who knew? It was like reading a legal case even though the author tried to use dialogue to make it more interesting. It wasn't. Also, I really disliked Jewell. She is a poor mother, for one thing, which I understand, although I think her "back story" was the least developed and therefore felt like a cliche. Also, her meeting the perfect man in Jack while passing a tavern is just too ridiculous. Come on. Is this a realistic book or a bunch of daydreaming?
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you ever drive through the south and note all the gated communities and lush golf courses, you may wonder as well who owned the land before. This novel uses vivid family characters to illuminate the process by which black families who were given land after the Civil War had it gradually stolen from them, of course legally, by a white justice system. The characters in the novel: Rayne, Selma , Jewell, Lillie, and Khalil, are very real and you will find yourself rooting for their success. The climax of the book includes the counterpoint of a brutal murder from the past and a hopeful development for the future. this is a quick and very enjoyable read, highly recommended.
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