Saturday, July 14, 2012

book review: Some Things I Never Thought I'd Do by Pearl Cleage

The backstory: Pearl Cleage is one of my favorite authors, and this year, I'm re-reading (and then reading) all of her novels. Some Things I Never Thought I'd Do is her third novel and the first in the West End series. My reviews of her first two novels: What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day and I Wish I Had a Red Dress.

The basics: Regina Burns has turned her life back around. She's out of rehab, but her poor decisions have left her home, the home her mother and grandmother grew up in, in danger of being taken by the bank. She sets off for Atlanta to work for her former boss, inspirational speaker Beth Davis, to organize the paper's of her late son, Son Davis, to whom Regina was engaged.

My thoughts: I remember reading Some Things I Never Thought I'd Do shortly after it came out nearly ten years ago. As I re-read it, I was surprised how much of the story I remembered, even the little details. It's a unique novel. Still present are Pearl Cleage's characteristic impassioned writing:
"The signs the demonstrators carried in Memphis right before Martin Luther King was killed said only i am a man. We all knew what that meant, and we embraced it, endorsed it, longed for it. But something happened between then and now. The definition of what a man is and what a man does has been so corrupted and compromised by a pop culture that will tell you anything to sell you everything that now we have manhood defined by cars and clothes and random sex and money made by any means necessary."
What separates this novel from her first two might surprise some: magical realism. This novel is a fascinating work of fiction because it's simultaneously realistic and a product of fantasy. It straddles the line beautifully between what is real, what might be real, and what could be real.

Against this backdrop of reality and dreams are dynamic characters. Regina is a beautiful, flawed, honest, strong heroine. The Atlanta in this novel is a character itself, and its idealized yet realistic portrayal is one I remember and miss. The other characters of this novel bring stability, drama and chaos in a beautifully, dramatic way.

Favorite passage:  "My mother always said a steady diet of scary bad news was just a right-wing plot to make people afraid to trust one another, and I used to laugh, but I think maybe she was right."

The verdict: Pearl Cleage's lyrical writing, astute observations on contemporary African-American society, and hints of magical realism delight. Some Things I Never Thought I'd Do is a novel that makes me confront the world we live in, but it also makes you dream about the world we could live in.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Length: 307
Publication date: August 26, 2003
Source: purchased for my Kindle

Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy Some Things I Never Thought I'd Do from an independent bookstore, the Book Depository or Amazon (Kindle edition.)

As an affiliate, I receive a small commission when you make a purchase through any of the above links. Thank you for helping to support my book habits that bring more content to this blog!

13 comments:

  1. I remember you writing about Pearl Cleage before, I think I would really enjoy her books.

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    1. Sam, I'm a huge advocate for Pearl's books. I hope you give her a try!

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  2. I've never read her but that passage you included pulled me in immediately.

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    1. Ti, I'd be curious to hear your thoughts on her books. I love the combination of social justice with fiction, but I know it doesn't appeal to everyone.

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  3. I haven't heard a lot about Cleage's work, except over here, but you have gotten me really intrigued about it, both with your enthusiasm, and with the excellent review on this book. As Ti said, that quote is definitely enticing, and I think that this is a book to look for, after reading the first installment, of course. Very passionate and moving review today. I am so glad you chose to share this with us today.

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    1. Thanks, Zibilee! I'm really enjoying re-reading Pearl's books (and am looking forward to the ones I haven't read before) and sharing them with others. I'm surprised how few readers know her work, so I'm happy to shine a little light on her.

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  4. I love that first excerpt! My head was nodding in agreement as I read it. I'm so glad you decided to share your thoughts on Cleage's work with everyone.

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    1. Thanks, Vasilly! You're one of the few I know who has also read her.

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  5. Okay, I reallyreally need to read I Wish I Had a Red Dress and then this one. I don't know what's stopping me.

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    1. Have you already read What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day? If not, I'd start with it!

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    3. Yes! I really liked it, too, which is why I don't know why I haven't picked up any of her other books. I did just check out I Wish I Had a Red Dress from the library today, so I'm about to rectify the situation :)

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    4. Hooray! I can't wait to hear your thoughts on it:-)

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Thank you for taking the time to comment. Happy reading!