ALL OF ME by Venise Berry


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A second effort from Berry (So Good, 1996) offers all the usual ingredients of the contemporary novel. Which is exactly the problem. The story begins with 30-something Serpentine Williamson waking up in a hospital room, then traces the events that led to her suicide attempt and follows the new life she tries to create afterward. A successful TV journalist in Chicago with a house of her own, a loving boyfriend, and a place in a prizewinning choir, Serpentine seems to have it all, but once her world starts to crumble, so does her resolve. When she discovers that her boyfriend is cheating on her and also that the station would like her to lose weight (a lot of weight), her insecurities push her over the edge. Although the long road to self-acceptance after her suicide attempt is the main theme here, unfortunately it’s a pallid, Oprah-style version of life’s struggles, and Berry frequently uses self-help dialogue in place of the real thing. An issue since her teens, Serpentine’s roller-coaster weight gain and loss is inextricably tied to her sense of worth, and much of her depression is focused on the culture’s stringent requirements for women and beauty. The futility of fad diets (explained with biting humor), the challenges for African-American women in the workplace, and the age-old problem of finding true love, all of these are the hurdles Serpentine learns to face and overcome without internalizing her anger. The novel redeems itself when it focuses on her tender family relationships—with her tough mother, her inspiring aunt, and her loving sister—yet too often it rehashes ideas found in other, similar works. Admirable in intent, lackluster in all other ways.

Pub Date: Jan. 2nd, 2000
ISBN: 0-525-94463-X
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Dutton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 1999


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