CROSSING OVER JORDAN by Linda Beatrice Brown


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 A well-intentioned novel about how the psychic scars of slavery manifest themselves through generations of African-American women. The present is 2012, as 67-year-old Hermine awaits the death of her mean-spirited old Aunt Story. As the two bicker over the availability of fresh produce instead of the pain-filled past, Brown (Rainbow Roun' Mah Shoulder, not reviewed) offers a multi- perspectived narrative of the family history, beginning in 1873 with Story's grandmother, Georgia. Brown attempts to show the everlasting shackles of slavery: Georgia continued working for Massa McCloud even after emancipation and still had to come when he called her to his bed. Then there's the story of Georgia's daughter, Sadie. After her mother's experience with McCloud, Sadie considered herself lucky to choose her man, but she still suffered when husband Jacob turned sour under the weight of discrimination, disciplining his children and his wife to the point of abuse. Brown's tale focuses in on one of Sadie's children, Story, who grew up suffocated, not allowed to dance or play or get dirty or even make noise in her own house. Despite her childhood vows to escape this prison when she grew up, Story became a stereotypical product of her environment, so determined to pull herself up that she became as emotionally limited as her parents and, despite Brown's attempts to make her pitiable or understandable, even more reprehensible. Story seduced her younger sister's boyfriend and forced that sister to go to a quack abortionist, who killed her. She got pregnant by the same man and married him herself, then left him with their child while he was in a coma after a car accident. She raised her daughter Hermine, who she claimed was her niece, with even more restrictions and less love than she had. Unfortunately, Brown's narrative, in both past and present, proves muddled, and her thoroughly damaged characters are unsympathetic. Confusing and oppressive.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-345-37857-1
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Ballantine
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 1994