Three generations of African-American women navigate a turbulent 20th century.
Alma, Ruby and Ida share many things—a headstrong demeanor, an undying love for the men in their lives, an evolved understanding that after those men are gone, women still have needs, and perhaps most importantly, a Mammie Doll from an ancestor. Through World War II, the civil rights movement, the Vietnam War, and everything else the 20th century could throw in their direction, the small doll with the dinner bell served as a tangible connection to each other and the past. Alma received the doll on the day she wed Sonny, an unmotivated but lovable pool-hall denizen who is sent overseas to the front lines of World War II. Alma’s daughter, Ruby, who is fed up with the intolerant 1960s and participates in a department-store protest, receives the doll when she marries Homer. Her daughter Ida is a true child of the 1980s, immersed in both pop culture and the heady academia of her liberal arts college. When the president of the college cuts the Black Studies program, Ida and her fellow students (none of whom are enrolled in the program) revolt until their demands are met. This last generational struggle underscores one of the central problems with the story: While Prue treats his characters with dignity and respect, he does not do the same for major events of the 20th century. They come into his book quickly and heavily, are reacted to in a knee-jerk fashion, and are conquered and dismissed with a bow on top. His impressive characters are similarly dulled by the author’s inclusion of interjectory and meandering passages throughout the book. For every gripping section of dialogue or action, pages of overwritten jazz solos exist. These oddly cadenced descriptions impede momentum and don’t effectively tie into the characters’ struggles, ultimately dooming an otherwise fine story.
Moving premise that’s compromised by convoluted storytelling.