Review: And Then There Was Me: A Novel

And Then There Was Me: A Novel And Then There Was Me: A Novel by Sadeqa Johnson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Weathering the storm of infidelity, battling emotional demons, and presenting herself as the carrier of another woman’s dream, the story of Beatrice engulfs the struggle of today’s contemporary woman.

The story begins in elegant Spring Lake, NJ, where Beatrice and Lonnie are traveling with their family for a splendid Memorial Day weekend. A much needed vacation from the toils of life.

Beatrice, a nurse by profession, was a stay-at-home mom, is suddenly thrust into a high society suburb of Evergreen, New Jersey. Having faced racial insincerities during her youth, this posh neighborhood lacks the diversity she desires. Yet, she holds her chin high and tolerates Lonnie’s desires to live an upper-class life, as well as indulge his lustful passions.

In a moment of nostalgia, she decides to be the carrier of another woman’s dream – a child. Lonnie’s cousin, unable to have children due to cancer, is elated at the prospect of motherhood. Known only to one, Beatrice is engaged in a heated jousting match with the Dark Horse. Threatening her very existence, and the life of the angel she carries, Beatrice encounters an intense battle that threatens the core of her existence.

Like most women, Beatrice has a best friend – Awilda. Best friends since the moment Awilda entered her life, they have shared some precious moments. Quite the outgoing one of the duo, Awilda taught Beatrice how to dress, style her hair, even what boys do to girls. As irony rears its obnoxious head, we learn not only did she introduce Beatrice to Lonnie; but, she also made the fateful introduction to Beatrice’s Dark Horse.

Filled with furtive battles and gut-wrenching emotional turmoil, And Then There Was Me chronicles a period in Beatrice’s life as she learns tough lessons of marriage and the sacredness of female relationships.

Placed in a genre known to articulate women’s’ issues, this novel touches on dilemmas biracial women face in a society where even they are still not accepted. Moreover, it broaches, gently but with a feminist touch, the issue of bulimia and marital infidelity. Her controlling, cheating spouse has dropped her into a bourgeois neighborhood, where even her son has to face structural racism. Half African-American and half Dominican, she aches for acceptance.

As with many women who must care for a husband and children, the demands of motherhood, while expecting the child of another woman, tugs at her core. As a means of survival, she releases her internal pressure valve by purging. Not purging the way psychologists recommend, but, through gorging herself with fast food meals exceeding normal portions. Fighting this Dark Horse, as she calls it, is a fight all her own.

Beatrice is a complex character. Johnson displays an exquisite talent in developing her throughout the novel, while sprinkling the text with enough details of her past to provide a clear picture of her inner struggle. We learn of how she entered the world and how she endured racial slurs as young child. The story of Beatrice, even without the added subplots, would have yielded an excellent tale of self-love and redemption.

Furthermore, we learn about the depth of female relationships and the need for them. From infusing herself with the peace and serenity of Hot Yoga, thanks to a sweet neighbor, to engaging in a heated battle with Awilda and Lonnie, Johnson shows the need each woman has for a female companion.

Literary feminists will embrace this novel as one that shouts women are intelligent beings able to take charge of themselves and their lives with passion and integrity.

Reviewed for the Sankofa Literary Society. Book provided by the author or the publisher for review purposes.

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