publication date: 2011
This taut and sparkling novel focused on an interesting plot: the daughters of a bigamist in 1980s Atlanta. The book began with Dana, a young girl whose Daddy has two wives and two daughters. As Dana navigated being part of her father’s “secret family,” the book explored issues of identity, loyalty, family, and belonging.
Tayari Jones took a compelling plot and told it very well. The introduction and conclusion were well-handled, with just the right amount of intrigue and satisfaction, and the perfect touches of foreshadowing. Also, the climax was one of the best I have read in a while, with impeccable pacing and suspense.
What made this book so exceptional was its infusion of suspenseful plot with pithy explanations of relatable themes. From almost page one, I was wondering about and fretting over what was going to happen next. But meanwhile, Jones filled her pages with rewarding descriptions and observations, such as:
Everyone knows that [being pregnant] is the hardest thing that you can ever tell a man, even if he’s your husband, and my father was someone else’s husband. All you can do is give him the news and let him decide if he is going to leave or if he is going to stay.
Jones also was very funny. For example, this description of a newly befriended teenage boy, which I laughed at but still don’t quite understand:
Mike was Seventeen magazine in the face, but watching him walk away in his Levi’s, I kept thinking “Jack and Diane.”
One theme that I particularly enjoyed was the exploration of the dual lives that teenage girls, and all teenagers, experience. Jones doesn’t shy from the fact that young girls mess around, have sex, and get high just as much as young boys but are still thought of as Daddy’s Little Girl.
One of the few missteps made by Jones was her use of anachronistic terms and phrases. For example, in a portion of the story set in the 1960s, young girls and their families frankly talked about pregnancy and rape, and even used those terms. Now, granted, I was not alive in the 1960s, but people I know who were still don’t talk about those issues sixty years later, and when they do, they use terms like “expecting” and “domestic issues.” Also, some of the descriptions of 1980s Atlanta seemed more like 2010s Atlanta, when the book was written, such as gas pumps with credit card readers and a pre-pay requirement.
I’m torn between give this book a 4/6 or a 5/6. It is absolutely worth reading and I would recommend it to diverse readers, from those who enjoyed The Help to those who enjoyed Dean Koontz-esque suspense. However, I could imagine someone, somewhere not enjoying it. With all that said, I think I will give it a
5/6: seek this book out