The Warmest December

Bernice L. McFadden, Author Dutton Books $22.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-525-94564-2
""Now and then I forget things.... One day last week I forgot that I hated my father... "" McFadden's graphic, poignant second novel (following her praised debut, Sugar) charts the resonating legacy that alcoholic parents pass on to their children through the cycle of addiction and domestic violence. Narrator Kenzie Lowe, an African-American woman in her 30s on welfare, has used alcohol to repress the memories of abuse she suffered growing up in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, caught in the physical and emotional grip of her whiskey-swilling father, Hyman Lowe. As Hy-Lo (a name that reflects his erratic mood swings) lies comatose in his hospital bed, dying of liver disease, Kenzie finds herself in the grip of buried memories. Deftly evoking the turbulence of Kenzie's tormented recollections, McFadden builds tension as Kenzie's subconscious releases events from a fearful childhood dominated by Hy-Lo's sadistic punishments. Incidents where he burned a cigarette into her palm, broke her ribs with lashes from his belt, knocked out her mother's teeth and terrorized her brother, effectively causing his death, graphically illustrate a child's powerlessness in the grip of an appallingly abusive parent. Seamless transitions between Kenzie's past and her present life anchored by AA sessions imbue this difficult tale with dramatic suspense. While McFadden's decision to tie up loose ends into a neatly contrived ending may seem facile, its cathartic message of forgiveness and recovery will elicit tears. Agent, James Vines. (Jan. 15)
Reviewed on: 02/01/2001
Release date: 02/01/2001
Hardcover - 978-0-7862-3439-4
Peanut Press/Palm Reader - 256 pages - 978-1-4362-6432-7
Paperback - 239 pages - 978-0-452-28291-9
Open Ebook - 1 pages - 978-1-4362-6379-5
Ebook - 288 pages - 978-1-61775-111-0
Paperback - 256 pages - 978-1-61775-035-9
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