cover image The Other Mother

The Other Mother

Rachel M. Harper. Counterpoint, $28 (448p) ISBN 978-1-6400-9504-5

Harper (This Side of Providence) returns with a riveting exploration of an Afro-Cuban family’s secrets. Talented pianist Jenry Castillo leaves Miami for Brown University on a scholarship. In addition to pursuing his passion for music, he’s determined to learn more about the life of Jasper Patterson, whom his mother, Marisa, met while she was at Brown decades earlier, and who died shortly after Jenry was born. Marisa has told Jenry that Jasper was his father, and that he was a famous ballet dancer. When Jenry meets Jasper’s father, Winston, a Black emeritus history professor, Winston reveals a long-kept secret: it’s not Jasper Jenry should be searching for, but Jasper’s sister, Juliet, his mom’s former girlfriend with whom Marisa had the baby. Learning about his “other mother,” as Winston calls Juliet, shatters Jenry’s relationship with Marisa. Meanwhile, Winston has been harboring secrets that threaten to undo his relationship with Juliet. Harper skillfully layers the narrative with accounts from the various characters’ points of view, capturing palpable emotions and the fissures running through their fraught relations, all the while handling themes of motherhood, race, and sexuality with aplomb. This adds up to a heartrending story. Agent: Anjali Singh, Ayesha Pande Literary. (May)