In this contemporary parable, debut author and retired New York City public school teacher Banks explores a young woman’s rocky freshman year of college, intermittingly interjecting Scripture-based advice, words of wisdom and “discussion questions” for receptive readers.
Kim is a wholesome, hardworking girl from a close-knit New Jersey family. For Banks, she exemplifies how a “righteous” woman can be brought down by desire, jealousy and rage if she doesn’t listen to her inner voice and hold tight to her commitment to God. Banks’ purpose is to teach young African-American women how to maintain their own values and boundaries when tempted by a suitor who may not have commitment in mind. Although intended for Christian women, much of the advice will be applicable to any woman who wants a loyal life partner. But the story gets caught up in a pheromone rush; for example, when Kim ends up grinding on the dance floor with a slick guy named Slim, she wonders if he is a potential boyfriend, but the narrator advises: “Make your boundary lines clear, or someone else will draw them for you.” The book ends with two other brief tales, one showing an older woman’s romantic downfall; the other portraying a woman who finds a good man through church and lets him court her slowly through to their engagement before consummating the relationship. The end of the book offers “chocolateisms”—advice on how to maintain a strong sense of self while searching for the one. Throughout, the constant, unconventional shifts in tone, from a close first-person narrative to didactic oration, are rather disruptive; however, as the writer’s intention to mentor becomes more apparent, the interruptions are easier to bear. Still, the book is most engrossing when Banks lets go of the lesson and just tells Kim’s story, which on its own has a recognizable moral.
Might not appeal to general readers but serves its narrow intended audience well.