Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Who Does She Think She Is?

Who Does She Think She Is?: A NovelJust this morning I uttered that time-used mama phrase, “Who does she think she is?” in reference to my tween daughter who was feeling herself just a bit too much.  It is probably my relationship with her that made me look into the future and glance back into the generations past as I read Benilde Little’s latest novel, Who does She Think She Is?.

It was almost by happenstance that I read this book last week. 

We live in a townhouse, 1900 feet, downsized from our 3500 foot house across state.  That means we have boxes, tables, chairs, and lots of books in our garage.  I was in the garage, just before an Earth Day recycling event, trying to find any stray electronics when I stumbled upon this crate of books that moved from house to house. My books are connections to me, whether I read them or not, and are precious assets that I have a hard time parting with.  The Earth Day celebration also included a book donation and as I was looking through the crate, I found this book.  I remember purchasing it two years ago at the Greater St. Louis Book Fair, held annually at the end of April in the Macy’s parking lot.  I remember I was drawn to the contemporary storyline and the hope that the tasteful cover promised. I put it on my “to read” pile and a month later, picked it up when I was between assignments.

I was not disappointed. 

First person narration is one of my favorite points-of-view.  To me it feels like I am having a conversation with the protagonist and am able to connect to their story.  This book gave me the unique gift of hearing from three generations of women and finding connections in each of their stories, understanding why each one behaved the way they did.  It is also perhaps because my daughter is fully into her tween  years and in her stretch for her personhood, sometimes pushes a few of her mama’s buttons.  Mother-daughter stories continue to pull me, perhaps because I lost my mother when I was only four and there is a part of me that fantasizes about what the possibilities of that relationship.

The three women could have easily been friends or family members, I recognized myself in the mother and heard my aunts in the the grandmother.  My daughter is not old enough to be the daughter in the story, but I have sons who could be her contemporaries.  I applauded her bravery to make a choice for true connection and not just for security, to buck tradition and follow a path she created for herself.  I also smiled at the affirming self-giving the mother encountered and the full-circle life journey of the grandmother who decided she could finally shed the cloak of the past to embrace the uniqueness of her legacy.

My criticisms of the book center on three things, first, the editing could have been a little tighter with some of the misplaced words and spellings.  Second, my head was spinning with all the brand name references that it made me wonder if the author was getting a kickback, and third, it seemed the story ended a bit too tidy in the last few pages, the author bringing all the disparate stories together in a neat little bow.  It could be that she was facing a deadline or that she had developed a triad as much as she could without the danger of making this a trilogy.

I was satisfied with the week I spent with her and the characters will stay with me because I relate to them, the contemporary setting, and the understanding that this life journey has so many universal elements.

This was an excellent book and one that I would highly recommend for a quick summer read.  I live in Kirkwood and have joined the summer reading program, it is one that I am recommending on that site as an easy breezy book that will truly satisfy.

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