cover image So Good

So Good

Venise Berry. Dutton Books, $21.95 (288pp) ISBN 978-0-525-93885-9

For African American sisters Lisa Allen and Danielle Mead, and their best friend Sundi Karif, their mid- to latter 30s in Washington, D.C., is a time of fundamental life change. As Berry's debut novel opens, the extremely independent Sundi is marrying Chris, a Nigerian with traditional ideas of a woman's role; Lisa, single and rebounding from a broken engagement, is finishing her doctoral program; and Danielle, restless in her solid but uneventful marriage, is considering an affair with her young executive assistant. Soon, Sundi, now married, finds herself alienated from Chris; Danielle leaves her husband for the thrilling but superficial younger man; and Lisa meets and impulsively weds a romantic with a dark side. As the women struggle to maintain their balance in the conflict between reality and what they had intended for themselves, their history and love for one another, along with a scathing honesty, serves as a constant amid the turmoil. Berry has recreated the subtle complexity of the contemporary African American professional woman's world, flavored with motherwit and home truths from preceding generations of family. The elasticity and forgiveness of the African American culture is evident in the friends' disagreements, their response to crisis and their ultimate taking of responsibility for their actions. The prose can be flat and impersonal, reading more like reportage than fiction. But even so, Berry's novel opens the front door and greets the reader with a genuine smile of welcome. Hopefully, Berry will learn to liven up her prose, for she traces characters who are real and appealing enough to demand a sequel. Literary Guild alternate selection. (Aug.)