Essence editor Robotham's debut fiction is both a love story (at times overworked) and an incisive portrait of the drug landscape of 1980s Manhattan. Although beginning with what turns out to be a fateful meeting in a Philadelphia parking lot, the narrative quickly turns back to Zach and Korie's divergent childhoods: Korie is the only child of an affluent Jamaican family, sent to an American prep school, while Zach is the young backbone of a troubled but loving African-American family from Philadelphia. The two meet when Korie interviews a pair of mentally ill adults for an article she's writing—Zach is their caseworker—and there's electricity. No sooner is the interview over than they find themselves at a bar and soon after tumbling into bed for a weekend. Time passes, Zach moves into Korie's Manhattan apartment, and the two become closer, basking in the glory of their simple routine and love—with just one hitch: Korie's husband Sam. Sam and Korie's marriage mysteriously disintegrated long before she met Zach, but legally and emotionally they—re still bound. When Sam falls ill (with what's later identified as AIDS), Korie devotes the little time they have left together to helping him, as does Zach. When Sam dies, Korie begins to unravel, sending Zach back to Philadelphia and plunging herself into a world of drugs. Various subplots fill out the year they—re apart (it's no surprise when they finally reunite), focusing both on Korie's friendship with Simona—even more hopelessly addicted than Korie herself—and on Zach's mother and the secret she bears, one threatening to break up their once-closeknit family. Heavy-handed prose occasionally detracts from this story on the ties of family and romance, but first-novelist Robotham's exceptionally likable people are able to salvage what could have easily been standard fare.
Read full book review >