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The Break-Up Book Club by Wendy Wax

Source: Publisher
Paperback, 384 pgs.
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The Break-Up Book Club by Wendy Wax explores the unexpected friendships of a local book club in Atlanta at Between the Covers bookstore. This is an unusual book club where the members have a wide-range of backgrounds and experiences. Former tennis star Jazmine, empty-nester Judith, young assistant Erin, and bookstore assistant Sara are just four members of this eclectic book club that also has an EMT named Chaz, bookstore owner Annell, a budding fashion designer named Carlotta, and Meena, Judith’s best friend.

“It’s enough to make me wonder whether any of the things we think we know about each other are true.”

At the heart of the book is friendship, especially unexpected friendship, but this novel has a more solemn tone to it than some of Wax’s other, more light-hearted books. These women have experienced significant losses and hard times, and many of their secrets are kept close to the vest. While these women meet for book club to unwind and discuss books, the book club itself isn’t the main focus of the book, so much as the development of the characters. Jazmine is a single mother and a sports agent at a local boutique firm, but she’s haunted by the past, which keeps her closed off, ambitious, and focused on protecting her daughter. Judith is an older married woman whose husband seems even more distant, leaving her wondering what’s the next chapter for them until something tragic happens. Sara is the most blindsided of the four women when she discovers a heavy secret her husband has been hiding. Erin, on the other hand, is a young engaged woman who’s loss is for the best in many ways and allows her to blossom into a stronger version of herself.

“It’s strange how you can know people for so long yet only uncover slivers of who they really are and what they’ve been through.”

Wax explores the boundaries of friendship within this book club. Many readers have joined book clubs and have found friendship, fun, and wine, but would you call of the people in your book club a friend? Do you share personal experiences, talk about your heartaches, and delve deeper than the pages of the book to create lasting relationships outside of the book club? These are the questions that Wax explores in her novel, and while I love her lighter, beach reads, it is clear to me that these characters have depth — more so than her other characters — and that the sorrow in these pages is born of real experience.

My only complaint would be that the online dating mystery is wrapped up rather quickly and is too simplified, making it seem like an afterthought or something that was added to make it the book more relevant to today’s dating world. However, The Break-Up Book Club by Wendy Wax is an excellent read that explores friendship and how it can evolve over time as long as you are willing to open yourself up and be vulnerable. Definitely a read you won’t forget.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

Wendy Wax, a former broadcaster, is the author of sixteen novels and two novellas, including My Ex–Best Friend’s WeddingBest Beach EverOne Good ThingSunshine BeachA Week at the LakeWhile We Were Watching Downton AbbeyThe House on Mermaid PointOcean Beach, and Ten Beach Road. The mother of two grown sons, she has left the suburbs of Atlanta for an in-town high-rise, that is eerily similar to the fictional high-rise she created in her 2013 release, While We Were Watching Downton Abbey.

Black Girl, Call Home by Jasmine Mans

Source: Publisher
Paperback, 256 pgs.
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Black Girl, Call Home by Jasmine Mans is a collection of poems that explore mother-daughter relationships, identity, and the racism many Blacks face every day. There are so many moments in this collection where your heart will break, just as the relationship between mother-daughter breaks. The narrator of these poems struggles with who she is and how to reconcile that with her mother’s disappointments about that identity.

In “We Host These Variables,” she says, “There’s something I want to honor here. I/ want to honor the silent story, the emotions/unaccompanied by human language. I want to/honor the weight of stillness. I want to/honor the silent ceremony between mother/ and daughter.” In this poem she explores the silence that become tense between mother and daughter because they are mirrors of one another. Later, she says, “I know the/distance between mother and daughter. How/we are many burned bridges, as well as a/wealth of brick and clay, ready to be made/anew from everything unmade of us.”

Mans explores the harsh history facing Blacks — women who get the worst part of it all. Men with the dreams, but the women who bear the burden of those dreams. One of the most powerful poems in this collection that brings this history to the forefront is “Nerf Guns: Christmas 2019 Tulsa” where the past and the burdens of racism are never far away. “The/only way a bullet becomes laughter is when it/plays pretend in its own foam shadow./” In this poem, little boys play with nerf guns and play dead and the narrator was never allowed to until she was grown and playing with her cousins. She realizes the ironies and implications of this game, while her cousins do not. “My father knew death too well to let us mimic it. Or, maybe death mimicked us too well for him to allow it’s ‘pretend’ in his house.” She wraps “herself in/that joy. The joy that nothing spilled of them/but the sound of their own silly.”

Black Girl, Call Home by Jasmine Mans is a journey of identity and learning how to cope with the past to bring oneself into the future. There are truths in this collection that shouldn’t be shied away from, especially for Black men and women. We need these stories to remind us that we can do better. “I know trauma uses silence as a survival mechanism.” Let’s break that cycle and break that silence.

Rating: Cinquain