A deftly written, if less-than-groundbreaking, second novel from Cary (The Price of a Child, 1995; a memoir, Black Ice,...

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A deftly written, if less-than-groundbreaking, second novel from Cary (The Price of a Child, 1995; a memoir, Black Ice, 1991) likely to appeal to Terry McMillan fans everywhere. Four complicated African-American women, all on the verge of 40, weave in and out of each others' lives in ways both sustaining and disastrous. The opening scene, where the primary players are introduced, is staged at a wedding from hell. Audrey's birth-son Bryant, who was effectively raised by his mother's well-to-do friend Roz, is marrying a girl whom neither woman approves of: a pregnant 18-year-old whose sole career ambition is to open a manicure shop someday, Roz and Audrey's friend Tamara--who's catered the wedding feast--is a college prof by trade and a gourmet cook by passion; and the final member of the foursome, Arneatha, is the Episcopal priest conducting the marriage ceremony. Slowly, underlying fault lines are revealed in all these women's lives: Roz is recovering from breast cancer, and the stress is interfering with her notorious ability to manage her family and help her politician husband, Hiram, who's now campaigning for a seat in Congress. Audrey's alcoholism has caused her years of anguish and misery, as well as the loss of her son; her journey back to sobriety is an arduous one, testing her friendships with the others. The very successful Tamara longs for more exciting work--and a man who can accept her fiery spirit. And Arneatha, though seemingly the most stable of the group, has been concealing a years-long aching loneliness. By the somewhat-schmaltzy wrap-up, all's well--of course. An adequately entertaining if convoluted story, with swift and lively dialogue throughout.

Pub Date: Feb. 16, 1998

ISBN: 0385481837

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Talese/Doubleday

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1998