Be prepared to shed a tear or two.



No doubt about it, Scottish author Macleod is a master storyteller who plumbs the breadth and depth of emotions in this inspiring debut about a young black girl whose direction in life is defined by her inner strength and courage.

Arletta Johnson lives an insular existence in a small cabin near Brouillette, La., in the early 1900s, which she shares with her Mambo, the local voodoo priestess. They have a volatile relationship, and Arletta’s comments and actions often bring thwacks from her mother, who abandons her at home as she spends time drinking with boyfriends or using her voodoo to help the neighbors. Arletta fondly remembers her grandpa, the stabilizing influence in her life, who taught her to read and encouraged her to make something of herself. She cherishes his tin box, containing papers and his old wooden pipe, which she keeps buried near the shack. But being left alone in the cabin endangers Arletta in ways that Mambo never imagines: Two white pedophiles often visit Arletta while Mambo is gone and brutally rape and threaten her to keep her silence. After each vicious encounter, Arletta cleanses herself in a nearby creek, and it’s there, as she contemplates drowning herself, that she first hears a disembodied voice named Nellie who sings to her and encourages her to remain strong. When she’s 10, Mambo finally sends Arletta to school, where she excels and becomes friends with another young girl, Safi. But before Arletta’s 15th birthday, she and Safi find themselves working in a cotton mill and boarding with a sympathetic white widow and her black employee. Mambo and Arletta’s relationship changes as joyous events and misfortune touch their lives, but it’s the news that another young girl has been brutally assaulted by one of Arletta’s former attackers that ultimately unites mother and daughter in a single-minded purpose—and which permanently alters the path of Arletta’s life. Macleod brilliantly hooks the reader from beginning to end with a narrative that opens a floodgate of emotions and overflows with unforgettable characters.

Be prepared to shed a tear or two.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-78074-234-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Oneworld Publications

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2013

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Charming, challenging, and so interesting you can hardly put it down.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller


The relationship between a privileged white mom and her black babysitter is strained by race-related complications.

Blogger/role model/inspirational speaker Alix Chamberlain is none too happy about moving from Manhattan to Philadelphia for her husband Peter's job as a TV newscaster. With no friends or in-laws around to help out with her almost-3-year-old, Briar, and infant, Catherine, she’ll never get anywhere on the book she’s writing unless she hires a sitter. She strikes gold when she finds Emira Tucker. Twenty-five-year-old Emira’s family and friends expect her to get going on a career, but outside the fact that she’s about to get kicked off her parents’ health insurance, she’s happy with her part-time gigs—and Briar is her "favorite little human." Then one day a double-header of racist events topples the apple cart—Emira is stopped by a security guard who thinks she's kidnapped Briar, and when Peter's program shows a segment on the unusual ways teenagers ask their dates to the prom, he blurts out "Let's hope that last one asked her father first" about a black boy hoping to go with a white girl. Alix’s combination of awkwardness and obsession with regard to Emira spins out of control and then is complicated by the reappearance of someone from her past (coincidence alert), where lies yet another racist event. Reid’s debut sparkles with sharp observations and perfect details—food, décor, clothes, social media, etc.—and she’s a dialogue genius, effortlessly incorporating toddler-ese, witty boyfriend–speak, and African American Vernacular English. For about two-thirds of the book, her evenhandedness with her varied cast of characters is impressive, but there’s a point at which any possible empathy for Alix disappears. Not only is she shallow, entitled, unknowingly racist, and a bad mother, but she has not progressed one millimeter since high school, and even then she was worse than we thought. Maybe this was intentional, but it does make things—ha ha—very black and white.

Charming, challenging, and so interesting you can hardly put it down.

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-54190-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Oct. 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Offill is good company for the end of the world.


An ever growing list of worries, from a brother with drug problems to a climate change apocalypse, dances through the lively mind of a university librarian.

In its clever and seductive replication of the inner monologue of a woman living in this particular moment in history, Offill’s (Dept. of Speculation, 2014, etc.) third novel might be thought of as a more laconic cousin of Lucy Ellmann's Ducks, Newburyport. Here, the mind we’re embedded in is that of a librarian named Lizzie—an entertaining vantage point despite her concerns big and small. There’s the lady with the bullhorn who won’t let her walk her sensitive young son into his school building. Her brother, who has finally gotten off drugs and has a new girlfriend but still requires her constant, almost hourly, support. Her mentor, Sylvia, a national expert on climate change, who is fed up with her fans and wants Lizzie to take over answering her mail. (“These people long for immortality, but can’t wait ten minutes for a cup of coffee,” says Sylvia.) “Malodorous,” “Defacing,” “Combative,” “Humming,” “Lonely”: These are just a few of the categories in a pamphlet called Dealing With Problem Patrons that Lizzie's been given at work, Also, her knee hurts, and she’s spending a fortune on car service because she fears she's Mr. Jimmy’s only customer. Then there are the complex mixed messages of a cable show she can't stop watching: Extreme Shopper. Her husband, Ben, a video game designer and a very kind man, is getting a bit exasperated. As the new president is elected and the climate change questions pour in and the doomsday scenarios pile up, Lizzie tries to hold it together. The tension between mundane daily concerns and looming apocalypse, the "weather" of our days both real and metaphorical, is perfectly captured in Offill's brief, elegant paragraphs, filled with insight and humor.

Offill is good company for the end of the world.

Pub Date: Feb. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-385-35110-2

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 11, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet