An emotionally agonizing first novel that uses the disintegration of a biracial family to reveal the ties that bind siblings to parents, human beings to dubious notions about race—the story of a young professional woman yearning for loving kindness.
Mingus Browning’s workaholic quest to become a partner in a Los Angeles law firm collapses when she hears from her estranged older sister, Eva, that her parents’ 35-year marriage is over. It appears that their father Carl, a dabbler in real estate and the owner of a string of Laundromats, has been seeing another woman—and foolishly hid a packet of love letters from her, as well as a revealing home video, where their mother Elaine could find it. Though Mingus was closest to her father, also a frustrated black jazz musician (hence her name), she begins to hate him for cheating on Elaine, who’s white and was ostracized by her family when she eloped with him. It doesn’t help that Mingus herself is on the rebound from a relationship that ended badly. Now she’s torn between Steve, a sensitive, passive (and divorced) white policeman, and Eric, a sensually aggressive black TV producer. Mingus lets Eric seduce her, then asks him to find a job for ne’er-do-well Eva. He complies, but soon finds himself the object of big sister’s affections. First-novelist Adams, a 1998 PEN Emerging Voices Fellow, paces her alternately frustrating and erotic glimpses of Mingus’s romantic entanglements with even more painful interior monologues from Carl and Elaine, as if to say that even the most passionate affairs of the heart must lead to betrayal, alienation, and, in the case of a biracial relationship, a simmering antipathy that’s never far below the surface.
In this uncompromisingly bitter depiction of love gone sour, forgiving is not forgetting, and emotional wounds never seem to heal.