Thursday, October 3, 2013

A Trio of Girls and Their Off-Key Father


Finding Amos by Mason, Billingsly and McFadden  


Amos is the only connection between Cass, Toya and Tomiko. Back in the day, when he was making it in the music scene of Motown and blues, he was very popular with the women. These girls' mothers were among them, and he loved them all - but not in the way they needed him. So when his career called, he abandoned them, each in turn. Twenty years later, in a nursing home after an accident and diagnosed with Alzheimer's, and the only phone number he has is Cass's - the only one of these three girls, who isn't biologically his. And now that he needs them, the question is, will any of them forgive him. This is "Amos" by J. D. Mason, ReShonda Tate Billingsley and Bernice L. McFadden.

Girls have always had their daddy issues, and especially those who were abandoned by their fathers - both literally and figuratively. There are countless novels out there that deal with these problems, and how they can seep into a woman's life. The themes forgiveness and closure are no less familiar to us than those that deal with a parent who is dying from Alzheimer's - both separately and together. So as far as these things are concerned, there is very little that is new here. However, the main reason why I was drawn to this book was its three-author collaboration. I was more curious about how this would come together than the stories of these characters. But there was nothing noted in my copy of this book that reveals how these writers collaborated.

At the onset we find that each chapter is entitled with one of the names of the four characters. Because of this it occurred to me that each author took one of the girls and then came together to write the chapters on Amos. But as I got through the first set of all the characters, I realized that there was a similarity of style that seemed to exclude this possibility. There are, of course, pluses and minuses to this. On the one hand, the book feels almost like it was written by only one person, which should have been a good thing. However on the other hand, there wasn't enough difference in the four voices to make them seem like separate individuals.  

This, I believe, was the major drawback of this book. In order to make each of these characters come to life, they really needed to be very distinct. With one author, this isn't an easy thing to achieve, but I've seen it done many times and with varying levels of success. One would think that with three writers this should have been a snap, especially if my original assumption had been correct. But because there was no clearly evident diversity between how these characters were written, it is possible that there was total collaboration on all four of them. This also means that some of the characters felt less three dimensional than others.

The other problem I had with this book was I felt the conclusion was a bit unrealistic to me. I'd prefer not to elaborate on this further, to keep from spoiling it for those people who might want to read this book. To its credit, however, the book doesn't finish with an absolute conclusion for everyone, and we are left with some loose ends.

This doesn't mean that the book isn't well written, because it is and very much so. The prose is both evocative and simple, with a good balance between the external forces that pull these people through the action, and the internal struggles that motivate how each of them acts.  We also get just enough flashbacks to fill in the gaps in their lives and histories without making us feel that this overtakes what goes on in the present. It was also very effective for the chapters to get shorter as the story progressed, which helped build the story nicely towards its climax. All of this makes an interesting and fast read were we see how these three different women learn to cope with their pasts alongside Amos's self-realization spurred on by his own frailty of aging.

More importantly, I found that I actually could empathize with most of these characters. This could be because my own father was less than perfect, and he also died from Alzheimer's. Thankfully, I don't think my adult life was as scarred by his actions as these women's lives were, but I can see how Amos's actions could have been the underlying cause for their problems. Because of this, I think I'll still recommend this book but I can only give it three out of five stars. 


"Finding Amos" by J.D. Mason, ReShonda Tate Billingsley and Bernice L. McFadden, published by Gallery books, a division of Simon & Schuster, release date October 13, 2015, but can be purchased from Amazon.com, Amazon UK, Barnes & Noble, The Book Depository and iTunes. This review is a version of the one originally published on Dooyoo and {the now defunct} Yahoo! Contributor Network. I would like to thank the publishers for sending me a review copy via NetGalley.

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