cover image Pomegranate


Helen Elaine Lee. Atria, $27.99 (352p) ISBN 978-1-982171-89-6

Lee (The Serpent’s Gift) returns after more than 20 years with the powerful story of a woman’s reentry to society after being released from prison. Ranita Atwater, 36, was convicted of a drug charge four years earlier. She grew up as the only child of middle-class Black parents in Boston, where her strict mother died when Ranita was 13. (Her beloved father died while she was in prison.) As a free woman, she longs to see her three children, who are cared for by her protective aunt Val; and to someday reunite with Maxine, the sweet and politically engaged fellow inmate she fell in love with at the prison. With the help of her aunt Jessie, Ranita makes unsteady progress toward building a new life: she gets a dishwashing job, moves into her own apartment, and is eventually allowed to visit her kids. Through therapy, she begins to come to terms with her past, including her addiction to drugs and alcohol and her relationship with the children’s father, who died six years earlier. With a light, poetic touch, Lee balances the painful details of Ranita’s reality with genuine, persistent hope for new beginnings. It’s irresistible. Agent: Jane Dystel, Dystel, Goderich & Bourret. (Apr.)