CBR Bingo – Heart, because these characters ultimately have so much love for one another
This is the story of two families in North Carolina, spread across multiple decades. The story opens in 1992, on the day of a tragedy that impacts young Gee for the rest of his life. Another family is tangentially impacted by this event, but the stories of Gee’s family and the Ventura’s will come to be more fully entwined throughout the novel. The novel bounces around in time, ending in February 2020 (so, no mention of the pandemic). It’s a wonderful family saga that explore the way that race impacts all of us. In this small community in North Carolina, in the late 1990s, a school decides to integrate the city and county schools – and if this has happened in any of your communities (as it has in mine) the reaction of the families, especially the white families, will be very familiar. The book explores the impact of race at both the community level, and far more personally in relationships.
Gee’s family growing up consists of his mother, Jade – an intelligent, stubborn woman who never regrets having her son so young but who also struggles to connect to her child in some really interesting ways. They grow into a family that includes Linette, a sort of mother-in-law figure. Gee loves these women in his life, but he misses the lone father figure that he lost when he was very young. The women around him mourn his lost father in their own ways, but also vow to ensure that Gee gets every advantage they can provide for him.
Nearby, the Ventura’s begin as a young family – a Latino man, Robbie, his white wife Lacey May and their three daughters. Robbie and Lacey May love each other – but Robbie battles with addiction, and when he is imprisoned while the girls are young Lacey may must make some difficult decisions to ensure her girls have what they need.
The book manages to show empathy for several flawed people without allowing the book to glorify hateful, racist behavior. There are several characters, so for some readers there might be a few too many characters to feel really connected with anyone in particular (it bounces around in perspective quite a bit). I wish that there had a been a little bit more of the discussion around integration in schools. Overall, I enjoyed this novel a great deal, it’s definitely one that I would consider for a book club because it lends itself well to further conversation.