FLOATING by Nicole Bailey-Williams


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Mixed race and mixed feelings—way too many feelings.

Shanna is the daughter of a rich white woman and a working-class black man whose troubled marriage dissolved when her mother walked out. And why was that? Oh, dear heart, ask not, for first the cruel indifference of coarse schoolfellows must be explored and their unfeeling remarks memorialized in bad free verse. Let us now walk the streets of Philadelphia, lost in plangent memories of younger days, though of course it is pointed out that Shanna’s soul was always old. Back to the plot and at least one obvious reason for the divorce: mother and father were very different in so many ways! (Reader, brace yourself for precious prose of a type not seen in fiction for about a hundred years.) Mother’s skin is “buttermilk” to Father’s “coal,” her voice “tiny bells” to his “boom,” etc. Shanna must unravel the secrets of their intertwined pasts, and ask a lot of stagy questions. Why did Mother leave her monied Main Line home? What secret wounds made her cry “crystal-like” tears? What is love? Will Shanna find the answer if she stares at her ceiling and its decorative stars? Are the stars ever lonely like her? And if they met and joined, would they “trail orgasmic star juice across the heavens, leaving a trail for us to remember that there once stood a refulgent, brilliant star that was the brightest the sky had to offer?” Yes, a love interest soon juices up Shanna’s moony reveries: hunky Lionel, who can’t seem to escape the ’hood or his own memories of a troubled childhood. To her credit, the author gets a lot more real on the black side of this story, especially when she touches on the racist horrors of the rural South. Still, it’s not enough to counteract all the sensitive hooey.

An overwrought and unconvincing second effort from Bailey-Williams (A Little Piece of Sky, 2002).

Pub Date: April 13th, 2004
ISBN: 0-7679-1564-X
Page count: 224pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 2004