Monday, March 6, 2017

Loving Day by Mat Johnson Review

I had a difficult time deciding how I felt about Loving Day when I read it back in September of last year. There are some very funny, laugh out loud moments in this story; especially in the beginning. There are moments of poignancy that made me think about how difficult it could be to have your outside appearance not fit with how you feel on the inside. Just how much our individual identities are often tied to our skin color and even how attractive others perceive us to be is often much more important than most of us want to admit. In the case of Warren's daughter, to live your life believing that you are one thing only to be thrust into an identity you have no idea how to relate to is jarring and makes her angry and defensive. Tal, like many angsty teenagers, enjoys pushing her father's buttons as punishment for everything that is happening in her life. She enjoys saying and doing things to punish Warren, who has no idea what to do as a father, for things that are both in and out of his control. The interactions between Tal and Warren are sometimes uncomfortable and aggravating, but pretty realistic. These two completely autonomous people are thrust together and forced to forge a relationship out of very little commonality. 

 However, there are parts of the story that I had trouble connecting with. The mystical/paranormal element felt off and even though part of the story from the beginning, it felt wedged in and didn't fit well. The school/community that is supposed to be a haven for biracial/multiracial people struggling to find their own 'true' identities also came off as a bit odd in the way that it was created. I went into this one expecting to love it, but I just couldn't get there. Loving Day is the first book that I have read by Mat Johnson and although I didn't love Loving Day I will pick up another book by Mat Johnson.

Warren Duffy has returned to America for all the worst reasons: His marriage to a beautiful Welsh woman has come apart; his comics shop in Cardiff has failed; and his Irish American father has died, bequeathing to Warren his last possession, a roofless, half-renovated mansion in the heart of black Philadelphia. On his first night in his new home, Warren spies two figures outside in the grass. When he screws up the nerve to confront them, they disappear. The next day he encounters ghosts of a different kind: In the face of a teenage girl he meets at a comics convention he sees the mingled features of his white father and his black mother, both now dead. The girl, Tal, is his daughter, and she’s been raised to think she’s white.

Spinning from these revelations, Warren sets off to remake his life with a reluctant daughter he’s never known, in a haunted house with a history he knows too well. In their search for a new life, he and Tal struggle with ghosts, fall in with a utopian mixed-race cult, and ignite a riot on Loving Day, the unsung holiday for interracial lovers.

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