In his debut novel, Gumbs brings two strangers into a romantic entanglement.
In this first volume of a planned series, Gumbs introduces readers to Jaacyn and Georgia, who start at odds but become lovers in a very unlikely scenario. The UDM in the title stands for “uniquely defining moment” (among other things), and each character undergoes certain testing situations. In the beginning, Jaacyn, a black man from Anguilla, is stalking Georgia, a white woman, until both are injured in a terrorist subway bombing, after which they are inexplicably drawn together. Each has secrets that Gumbs never addresses. Georgia escaped from and was paid off by a secret organization, which she still fears. Jaacyn communicates telepathically with an unseen being named Protocol. Gumbs spends many pages on flat secondary characters: Georgia’s caring but weak-willed mother, Vernie; her bigoted father, Malcolm; and Jaacyn’s easily conned cousin Curtiss. These characters seem to exist largely to be recipients of Jaacyn’s lectures on societal ills: “If you believe race is that important, you’re of the wrong race.” Gumbs’ plot hinges on the development of Jaacyn and Georgia’s relationship; they are both intriguing leads, but they still fail to learn much of substance about each other. Instead, there’s too much of Curtiss’ running to Jaacyn for loans to cover his debts, Vernie’s health scare, and Malcolm’s fretting about his daughter keeping company with a black man. There are also several chapters about Jaacyn’s bizarre night with a prostitute. Every time it seems like a reveal about either Jaacyn or Georgia might be imminent, the meandering narrative diverts to a secondary character and his or her problem. As a result, by novel’s end, there is little impetus for readers to continue to future books in this series.
Strong lead characters, but this stalls after a promising start.