cover image The Weight of a Pearl

The Weight of a Pearl

Walker Smith. Sonata, $15.99 trade paper (406p) ISBN 978-0-9904996-7-1

Smith (The Color Line) unflinchingly depicts a painful story of survival in a “damn mean world.” Pearl Sayles and her younger brother, Ronnie, are black children in 1930s Chicago who struggle through hard times living with an alcoholic father until they can escape with their mother. Years later, at 17, the mature, sultry-voiced Pearl tries singing at a nightclub, and later moves with Ronnie to Harlem; it’s there that her talent develops into a career while her brother strives to find his own purpose, encountering difficulties in finding work and a true sense of self. Pearl captures the attention of an accomplished trumpet player, Doc Calhoun, who fought first in the Abraham Lincoln Brigade in the Spanish Civil War, then in WWII. The love they build carries them through the McCarthy hearings, in which Doc is targeted as a communist for his service in the Brigade. Pearl and Doc battle internal and external demons as they raise their children in Harlem tenements, where the clouds sometimes seem to “cover the shame of their existence in the shadow of American affluence.” Fluid prose and gritty realism will hold readers’ attention throughout this tale of life through the eyes of an abuse survivor and a war hero whose courage is tested at home as it had been abroad. [em](BookLife) [/em]