Monday, April 9, 2012

#BookReview: Four of A Kind - Valerie Frankel

Typically when I read a jacket cover and find that one of the characters in a book about mostly white characters is black, I prepare myself to cringe.  Far too often authors that are not of color get characters of color wrong.  In the wrong hands, black female characters are sassy or they’re cold and distant.  My favorite is when they’re “of regal stature.”  It’s like authors don’t know any black women in real life, so they create characters based on what they’ve seen on TV (and that’s another conversation for another time) or what they imagine the barista at Starbucks is like when she’s not making their venti grande blah blah blah.  And then there’s Valerie Frankel.

This is my first Frankel novel, so I’m not sure how her other work reads, but I could kiss her for Four of A Kind. Why? A story of four women that become friends because their kids attend school together, and they serve on a committee together, is likely. Even more likely is that each of those women brings something to the table, holds back some things and doesn’t easily let her guard down. These are not cookie cutter characters. Each is unique. Now let’s talk about why I personally loved the character of Dr. Carla Morgan.

As I stated previously, so many authors don't know anyone of color personally (and by personally I mean someone they actually talk to/socialize with outside of work), so they make the character of color one-dimensional.  She's angry or she's bitter or she's "exotic."  What does that even mean?  I don't know, but I can't count how many times exotic pops up in books to describe these women.  But Frankel's Carla is like any other mother, she just happens to be black.  She's a married doctor with a passive aggressive husband and two kids.  She wonders how she fits in with this group of women with which she has nothing in common, but so do the other characters.  Her blackness isn't on display.  It's a part of her, but it doesn't define her. 

The same can be said of characters Robin, a Jewish single mother; Alicia, an unhappily married mother; and Bess, the blond WASP that seems to have it all.  I found all of the characters and their interactions with each other, their spouses and their children to be believable.  The story lines were fully fleshed out and I felt like I really knew these women by the time I finished the book.  This was my first read of Frankel's work, but I'll definitely be checking out her other writing.

Published: February 2012
Disclosure: Copy received from publisher. Opinions are my own.

Theme: Sisters Are Doin' It for Themselves by Aretha Franklin & Annie Lennox

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