Three women talk about love.
Young, beautiful, used to getting her way, Aisha Branch is planning a wedding as ostentatious as her engagement ring. Her daddy barely blinks when she picks out a $7,000 gown, and her fiancé—a seriously rich white boy—is able to offer her the choice of several family estates for the ceremony. Everything changes, though, when Aisha falls for an enigmatic older man. Little (Acting Out, 2003, etc.) brings out some sharp social commentary through the contrasts between newly affluent African-Americans, on the one hand, and Upper East Siders, on the other, who had ancestors on the Mayflower. But, unfortunately, her heroine is too status-conscious and materialistic to be appealing, and Aisha’s signs of character growth—when she finally does get married, she buys a dress off the rack—aren’t very convincing. Meanwhile, her mother, Camille, and her grandmother, Geneva, are much more engaging, and the story does considerably better for itself when they do the talking. Camille got pregnant at 19 and later spent her life doing what she could for others—both as a mother and as a social worker. Now, at middle-age, she rediscovers herself as a sexual being and forges a life-changing friendship with the mother of Aisha’s biological father. As for Geneva, although apparently the very model of “Negro respectability,” she surprised everyone—even herself—by falling in love with a jazz musician. She spent most of her marriage on the road with him, creating an all but unbridgeable distance between her and her children. By end, though, she’s overcome the disappointments and prejudices that made reconciliation with them impossible. It’s a rare novel that depicts older women as real people capable of change, which makes Little’s portrayal of Camille and Geneva as admirable as it is entertaining.
In all, then, a multigenerational cast turns mediocre chick-lit into a refreshingly different kind of contemporary romance.