KINFOLKS by Kristin Hunter Lattany


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 The author of five previous (and much praised) novels, including The Landlord (first published in 1966, but made into a movie in 1993), Lattany here portrays the changing lives and times of two feisty African-American women in their 50s--former 1960s political radicals, currently struggling to make ends meet and launch their two convention-hugging offspring into the world. As the story opens, the kids, Aisha and Toussaint--daughter and son, respectively, of old friends and single-mothers-by-choice Cherry Hopkins and Patrice Barber--are engaged to be married to each other. But Patrice, a queen-sized earth mother with a shrewd streak, senses a serious problem: The kids, who have always looked alike and been weirdly similar in disposition and tastes, also, it turns out, share an allergy to strawberries and a mole beneath their left ear. Could they possibly share the same father, Patrice wonders--a dashing, debauched, highly educated black poet named Eugene Green, whom all the ``brilliant, achieving, liberated young sisters'' of the '60s coveted? Yes, it turns out, after Patrice and Cherry compare notes on the subject; and immediately they decide to take to the road and hunt up Eugene's presumed other progeny--their kids' presumptive brothers and sisters. Meanwhile, Toussaint and Aisha, furious with Patrice and Cherry for screwing up their lives yet again, take up with a homeless drunk named Gene, a charming, mordantly funny ex-professor who teaches them that joy can be found beyond rigid social conventions. Of course, Gene is Eugene, their father--as they all learn when Cherry and Patrice return home with a passel of women and children who have also been touched by Gene. Heartwarming, with vivid characters (especially among the children), but marred by a plot that's silly and full of holes.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-345-40706-7
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: One World/Random House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 1996