cover image Playing with the Hand I Was Dealt

Playing with the Hand I Was Dealt

Nikki Jenkins, . . Atria/Strebor, $14 (216pp) ISBN 978-1-59309-046-3

Jenkins’s unsystematic debut follows Natalie Kelley, a 30-something African-American, who has been married three years to steady provider Anderson: the couple have beautiful twins and a nice home in an Ohio suburb. Natalie, admittedly preoccupied with the children, suspects her attractive, sports-loving husband is cheating on her, and confronts her fears. Her abrasive best friend from high school, Leslie Ann West, in contrast, made her hard-going way on her own as an exotic dancer before becoming successful as a marketing director, though she’s resentful she’s unmarried and dying to find a suitable sire for her future baby. Scenes of Leslie’s disastrous dates with various men and snapshots of Natalie’s extended family provide cornball levity and further drama respectively in Jenkins’s disjointed narrative, which flashes back repeatedly from the weekend of Natalie and Anderson’s reckoning. (Aug.)