A Christian-themed novel about a family in turmoil.
Debut novelist Life presents the story of Shanale Baker, a beautiful young woman who makes poor choices regarding men. Her problems begin when she becomes pregnant in high school by a drug dealer, who very quickly wants nothing to do with her. Shanale terminates the pregnancy and goes on to become a journalism major in college, where her relationship problems multiply. Married men tend to take a great interest in her, and although she gains material things from the relationships, disaster always seems to lie just around the corner. Fortunately for Shanale, she attends the same college as her best friend, Justin Hunter. He’s a straight shooter: a football star, an avid churchgoer, and a sympathetic listener. But when he starts dating a wealthy girl named Alexis, it drives a wedge into his and Shanale’s friendship. Meanwhile, Shanale’s family members struggle with their own problems; for instance, her sister Niesy works two jobs to support her children and her lazy, abusive boyfriend. Niesy’s teenage daughter Kai, meanwhile, seems to be on her way to making the same mistakes that her aunt did. It’s a tangled web—and then a murder enters the picture. The story, told from the first-person perspectives of different characters, contains some stilted dialogue, as when a character says of attending college, “I know it’s going to be hard but I am going to do it.” The pace, however, is quick and doesn’t slacken, and the narrative effectively explores the consequences of jealousy, abuse, and bad decisions. Although it’s clear early on that Christianity will provide saving grace, it’s uncertain for much of the story as to what form it will take. A character may raise her spirits by attending church, for example, but there’s still a murder to deal with. Although the resolution to the latter occurs rather abruptly, readers are left with characters who prove that change is always possible.
A fast-paced and ultimately uplifting family drama.