A gifted young African-American woman struggles to make sense of her new surroundings.
The author revisits her fictional counterpart Lori in this sprawling sequel to Stay the Course. The original novel found the gifted and beleaguered Lori struggling to graduate from an all-white high school in rural North Carolina with the help of her saintly grandmother. Here, she immediately loses that support system when â€œMa” dies suddenly. In a dubious twist, her grandmother’s dying wish is for Lori to be delivered into the care of a neurotic but well-meaning cousin–who inexplicably happens to be, as Lori calls her, a â€œstrange white lady.” Her far-removed cousin takes Lori to Alexandria, Va., where she enrolls at Howard University and discovers African-American history, opening up worlds she never knew existed. To her dismay, her day-to-day life is lived under the thumb of her cousin’s husband, a paper liberal who struggles with the undeniable presence of his new dependent. The familial tone is mercilessly set by his brother, a dyed-in-the-wool bigot and the family’s patriarch. Lori has a well-defined voice and she describes her alien environment in a compelling blend of lyrical observations and mistrustful detachment, as if she were recording biological field notes on the peculiarities of human beings. She also stays connected with her friends in North Carolina through largely irrelevant letters that have little context outside the original novel. Eventually, she comes to terms with her newfound family, discovers an aptitude for poetry, launches a campaign to help the homeless and starts a relationship. The story rambles terribly and the machinations of Lori’s new family would rival a soap opera. Yet despite these significant shortcomings, the book’s conscientious and enthusiastic narrator retains enough charisma to animate the text. The author promises a third book, Move Forward, to continue Lori’s story.
An inspirational novel that meanders but manages to stay the course.