Somebody Else's Mama

David Haynes, Author
David Haynes, Author Milkweed Editions $21.95 (340p) ISBN 978-1-57131-003-3
Paperback - 360 pages - 978-0-15-600408-4
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Haynes makes an appealing adult fiction debut with this novel set in River Ridge, a make-believe American Missouri town overlooking the Mississippi. The story itself resembles a river, sometimes purposeful, sometimes meandering, always exerting a hypnotic tug. On a whim, Paula Johnson brings her ailing mother-in-law home to River Ridge. Her husband Al's surprising decision to run for mayor further unsettles the comfortable existence the couple shares with their 11-year-old twin sons, as the campaign subtly alters the dynamics of the marriage. Meanwhile, the presence of Miss Kezee, Al's mother, forces Paula to unearth connections to her own, unpleasant past. Miss Kezee, whose voice intercuts the third-person narration, is Haynes's most surely drawn character, a cantankerous, dangerous, yet lovable old woman. Others are rendered less certainly. Al, for instance, who runs the local paper, seems conspicuously disinterested in the daily news; and, despite his professed deep attachment to River Ridge and its small-town ways, scant evidence is provided of any long-standing relationships to neighbors. Still, the Johnsons prove an irresistible draw. They remind us of that peculiar combination of everything important and nothing in particular that constitutes family life, and through their story, a relatively rare depiction of upper-middle class black family life, conjure up that sense of the one place that, though we may leave it, profoundly shapes who we become. Author tour. (May)
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