I loved this book – a simple, beautifully written story about love, friendship and growing up.
Nadia is a beautiful, cool, intelligent teenager, fancied by all the boys and with a glimmering career ahead of her – everyone knows she is intelligent enough to go to college. Then her mother kills herself unexpectedly and that summer Nadia’s life begins to go off the rails. She drinks alone in seedy bars and throws herself into a relationship to escape her grief and the fact her friends don’t look at her in the same way anymore. Then she starts going out with Luke, the son of the local pastor, who had an incredible career as an athlete ahead of him before a severe injury that left him still only able to walk with a limp. They are young – their relationship is a distraction from the grief they both are suffering. But then Nadia gets pregnant and has an abortion and it is this secret that forms the crux of the entire book. It takes in Nadia, Luke, their families, and eventually Aubrey, Nadia’s best friend.
But it is not a novel about abortion, not a pro-life nor a pro-choice novel. For that matter, despite being a novel about a black community and a black girl, it is not a novel about feminism, gender or race. It is just a novel about people – about how they react, how they deal with secrets, how they grow up and cope with love and friendship. It is about the closed communities of small town America, the pervasive impact of religion in its positive and its negative sense.
Every chapter begins with the mothers – like a chorus in Greek plays, they speak as one, always watching, always aware, bringing a sense of oppression and foreboding. Even when Nadia grows up and moves away from home, the narrative switches to be more focussed on the lives of those left behind, increasing the sense that it is the community that matters, the town, and while one might leave, it is what goes on at home that truly matters.
I don’t want to say too much without giving away the plot but actually – I loved this book not because of the plot but because of the characters, who were so real and vivid. It was just a really enjoyable novel.