Saturday, January 22, 2022

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Book Review

Book Reviews


By Angie Thomas
Balzer + Bray
368 pages

‘Concrete Rose’

“The Hate U Give” was a certified sensation in the literary world, with good reason. With her characteristic realism and heart, Angie Thomas returns to the world she created with “Concrete Rose,” a powerful, evocative prequel about masculinity, personal growth and the power of family.

Maverick Carter thinks he’s on top. Between his cousin, his girlfriend and his job dealing drugs for his father’s gang, he feels like everything is under control. Everything changes when he finds out he’s a father, and his world suddenly becomes much more difficult. Through tragedy, opportunity and impossible choices, Mav’s coming-of-age is a formidable, wrenching and emotional journey that often took my breath away.

There’s something transformative in reading about a life completely different than your own. It’s one of the reasons I read — to live lives I’ll never experience. This story is a gateway not just for empathy and understanding but for a broader lesson in the universality of humanity. I learned so much in this quietly magnificent story. I hope you will, too. ♦
— Reviewed by Julie Goodrich



By Deesha Philyaw
West Virginia
University Press
189 pages

‘The Secret Lives of Church Ladies’

If I could put one book in everyone’s hand right now, it’d be this one. I’ve been on a hunt recently for a good collection of short stories for my recently reduced attention span, and this one absolutely knocked me for a loop. Stories shouldn’t hit this hard, this deep, while also making you laugh out loud. Deesha Philyaw’s skill with a turn of phrase should be illegal.

There are nine stories in this collection, and each and every one builds on the one before it — hitting notes of faith, family, blackness, femininity, freedom and love in every variety. I’d call them fables, but the lyrical writing is matched with a stark reality that is less cozy and more cutting. This collection is less about subverting stereotypes and more about coming at these characters at an oblique, subtle angle to expose the layers so many don’t just ignore but actively try to erase.

The inner lives of Philyaw’s characters are vibrant and emotional and resonate on a level that shouldn’t be possible in such short vignettes. If you’re looking for a quick read that nevertheless packs a punch, I can’t think of a better choice. ♦
— Reviewed by Julie Goodrich

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