Monday, May 23, 2016
The Blackbirds by Eric Jerome Dickey Review
BLACKBIRDS follows four African American women through their journey to find what they want and need in love and life. Dickey does a good job making his characters feel like real people who happen to be in unique situations. The first of the Blackbirds, Indigo, has two romantic relationships with men (one present and one almost in the past) who are both unfaithful, and she still attempts to play one against the other. She claims to be a strong woman who will only love and eventually marry a strong and supportive Nigerian man. Having a Nigerian husband is not only important to Indigo's parents, but to her as well, so as to preserve the purity of her heritage. That's all well and good if that is your preference, however Indigo has desires that she surreptitiously indulges in while struggling to deny them. I understand a young woman who is struggling to find her identity and place in the word, but I found it very hard to have any empathy for Indigo. I also didn't enjoy the way that Indigo's character 'teasingly' disparages African Americans for being watered down and tainted versions of 'real' Africans. Indigo's attitude and temperament made her the least likable character in the group for me. I actually didn't want her to find happiness because of her ugly personality.
Kwanzaa struggles to find a means of trusting again after a breakup that caused her both emotional and physical trauma. The man that Kwanzaa finds also has a uniqueness that I suppose is meant to be a nice twist in the story, but I just found it odd. Especially, the first scene with Kwanzaa and her new interest returning to his apartment for the first time. It was really a 'what was that' kind of moment. The sorta kinda romance that Kwanzaa falls into also feels like unfinished business by the end of the book. I think that there may be a happy ending for Kwanzaa, but Dickey doesn't exactly say.
Destiny is hiding from a past that still haunts her. She has survived a horrific trauma, but the past can still harm her when people figure out who she is. I understood why Destiny chose to hide who she is, but the way things played out with her love interest was off as well. Her deceptions were wrong, but her love interest's betrayal was worse. Destiny does take back some of her power when a man from her past comes back into her life, but yet again, her situation and it's resolution just came off as odd and definitely unfinished.
For me, Ericka was the most likable of the four women. A bit older than the other three, she is divorced from a man that she had truly hoped to spend the rest of her life with. Although a pastor, her ex-husband couldn't be strong enough to love and care for Ericka through a serious illness. Selfishness and self righteousness on her ex-husband's part caused Ericka to end up alone and struggling to make her way through a recurring challenge. Although Ericka finds love with a man who seems to genuinely care for her, a reoccurring health issue threatens her future happiness. The ending of Ericka's story was the most disturbing for me because I know what it implied.
This is my first book by Dickey and I enjoyed it overall, but there were some issues that kept me from loving it. Naturally, all four of the women featured in this one had major issues in their lives that get (mostly) worked through as the story progresses. Even with the kinda/sorta resolutions to the issues that each woman faces I didn't have the sense of satisfaction and real closure after I finished this long book. For the length of this story I would have liked a more fulfilling experience. This may have been Dickey's intent to make the stories feel more realistic, but it left me a bit unsettled.The main issue that I had with this one is that not one of the women featured had, or achieves, a successful romantic relationship. Why couldn't just one of these women have earned a partner who believed in fidelity and love beyond the bedroom? None of these women have partners who seem to truly want to earn and hold onto their affections. It was a little disheartening when out of four beautiful and intelligent women not one of them earns a real happily ever after. That kind of reality sucks!
P.S. Since this was my first time reading Dickey and I am still interested in reading something else by him that may be more satisfying. If you are a fan of his work I would LOVE recommendations on what to read from him next that I may enjoy more. Leave your rec in the comments below please!
They call themselves the Blackbirds. Kwanzaa Browne, Indigo Abdulrahaman, Destiny Jones, and Ericka Stockwell are four best friends who are closer than sisters, and will go to the ends of the earth for one another. Yet even their deep bond can’t heal all wounds from their individual pasts, as the collegiate and post-collegiate women struggle with their own demons, drama, and desires.
Trying to forget her cheating ex-fiancé, Kwanzaa becomes entangled with a wicked one-night stand—a man who turns out to be one in five million. Indigo is in an endless on-again, off-again relationship with her footballer boyfriend, and in her time between dysfunctional relationships she purses other naughty desires. Destiny, readjusting to normal life, struggles to control her own anger after avenging a deep wrong landed her in juvi, while at the same time trying to have her first real relationship—one she has initiated using an alias to hide her past from her lover. Divorced Ericka is in remission from cancer and trying to deal with two decades of animosity with her radical mother, while keeping the desperate crush she has always had on Destiny’s father a secret... a passion with an older man that just may be reciprocated.
As the women try to overcome— or give into— their impulses, they find not only themselves tested, but the one thing they always considered unbreakable: their friendship.