THE HARRIS FAMILY by RM Johnson

THE HARRIS FAMILY

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Sequel to The Harris Men (1999), offering emotional punch if little else as it revisits an African-American family.

Some quick exposition brings readers up to speed. Five years earlier, diagnosed with terminal cancer, Julius Harris tried to come back into the lives of the grown sons he abandoned long ago, but the oldest, Austin, in the middle of a divorce, had no time for family reunions; middle son Marcus was too angry; and Caleb, the baby in the family, had just gone to the slammer. While incarcerated, Caleb tentatively reconnected with Julius; finally released, he journeys to Los Angeles to be with his father, now cancer-free. As the two cautiously rebuild a relationship, Austin and Marcus are at loggerheads back home in Chicago. Since their divorce, Austin’s ex-wife, Trace, has been making it increasingly difficult for him to see their two children, using them as pawns in her anger. One would think that divorce attorney Austin would have some experience in resolving disputes over visitation rights; instead, he plays games to teach Trace a lesson. Marcus doesn't help by taking on big brother’s paternal responsibilities, virtually alienating Austin from his own children. Things aren't much better in Los Angeles. Caleb finally locates girlfriend Sonya and their son Jahlil, who disappeared while he was in prison. They now live with a drug dealer who proves, in an ironic twist, to be the only dedicated father in the story, doting on Jahlil as well as Sonya. To make matters worse, the cancer has returned, and sweet Julius has little time left. If Johnson's point is that fatherless sons make poor decisions, he's right-on target. Much of the drama here stems from the bad situations the brothers foolishly put themselves into. Relief and forgiveness finally come into play—and not a moment too soon.

Well-intentioned, sometimes compelling, but far too agenda-driven.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-7432-1600-8
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 2001




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