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Baby Brother's Blues by Pearl Cleage
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Baby Brother's Blues

by Pearl Cleage

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The backstory: Baby Brother's Blues is the third title in Pearl Cleage's West End series. The series takes place in the West End neighborhood in Atlanta and features recurring characters, but it isn't a series you necessarily need to read in order.

The basics: Blue and Regina Hamilton shift to main characters again in Baby Brother's Blues. Regina is pregnant and growing concerned with the number of women seeking haven in West End. Regina's friend Aretha is considering her husband Kwame's pleas to leave West End for Midtown to strengthen their marriage. Meanwhile, Baby Brother, a U.S. soldier serving in Iraq who has a brief bereavement leave, arrives in Atlanta angry at the world and with no intentions of going back to Iraq.

My thoughts: While Regina and Blue return to the spotlight in Baby Brother's Blues, Cleage works wonders with a large number of narrators. These seemingly unconnected characters move closer together as the novel progresses. There are elements of romance, politics, crime, and social justice, but ultimately this novel is both character-based and plot-driven. This combination makes it both a page turner and a novel to savor.

As in all of her novels, Pearl Cleage takes on big contemporary themes. Her scope is both global (the Iraq War most notably) and local (African-American trends in Atlanta). As much as I love these elements, I was most moved by the characters in Baby Brother's Blues. Cleage never takes the easy way out. The multiple points of view presented in this novel let the reader see the situation more clearly than the characters themselves. This clarity, however, only reinforces the difficulty of dealing with the larger issues. This duality of theme makes both the individual stories and the global stories stronger.

A personal highlight while reading this novel was having one scene set at Murphy's, the restaurant in Virginia Highlands. It's the restaurant my husband and I met while working at. Pearl came into the restaurant a few times while we worked there too. I know some of my love of Pearl Cleage's work is how well she captures Atlanta, and the larger cast of main characters in this novel allowed her to present a larger slice of Atlanta than the West End.

Favorite passage: "She knew she was earning her membership in a long line of outspoken women and passionately committed men who understood that loving your country meant speaking up as loudly when it was wrong as you cheered when it was right. She was grateful for the chance to be in their number."

The verdict: Cleage once again creates beautifully flawed characters with whom you want to celebrate and mourn. She infuses themes of social justice beautifully. The end of this novel is truly stunning as Cleage weaves all of the storylines into a surprisingly cohesive conclusion.

In a conversation after the conclusion of this novel, Pearl Cleage shares this beautiful sentiment on storytelling: "I think storytelling is an ancient art that has survived because it’s through our stories that we reveal who we truly are as a community of people. I want my stories to be able to stimulate a vision in people of a different way for us to live together." ( )
  nomadreader | Nov 5, 2012 |
I really enjoyed this book, as I do all Pearl Cleage books!! There is a predictablility in her characters that is comforting and enjoyable to read. Even as new characters are introduced, they have a given role to play in the telling of a tale of right/wrong in the greater sense. In this book, I liked the sense of mystery. A fun read!! ( )
  whoot | Jun 24, 2007 |
Ms. Cleage does it again with this novel that cannot be defined in one genre. It's part mystery, relationships, family issues, business and political corruption with a hint of sexual secrets. The story takes place in Atlanta in a neighborhood that is under the protection of one man who seems almost surreal at times. A great read by an exceptional author! ( )
  sann | Sep 1, 2006 |
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ARMAGEDDON LOVE if the sky falls/and covers us/like an ocean/if the sun turns/cold and light/abandons our/hearts i would/wrap my arms/around the space/left behind and/know it was you--Jessica Care Moore--The Alphabet Verses the Ghetto (2002)
I think that if Black men can acknowledge the sins of our fathers and can work to correct the effects of them and not repeat the sins, if we can do theose things, then life in the Black community will be just the most peaceful thing in the world. If we fix ourselves, everything else will fall in line like a linchpin. I think we have to straighten out the misbehavin' men. --Zaron W. Burnett Jr. Interview in Gender Talk by Johnnetta Betsch Cole and Berverly Guy-Sheftall (2003)
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For Zaron W. Burnett, Jr., the one and only
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Regina was waiting for Blue.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0345481119, Paperback)

When Regina Burns married Blue Hamilton, she knew he was no ordinary man. A charismatic R&B singer who gave up his career to assume responsibility for the safety of Atlanta’s West End community, Blue had created an African American urban oasis where crime and violence were virtually nonexistent. In the beginning, Regina enjoyed a circle of engaging friends and her own work as a freelance communications consultant. Most of all, she relished the company of her husband, who never ceased to be a source of passion and delight.

Then everything changed. More and more frightened women were showing up in West End, seeking Blue’s protection from lovers who had suddenly become violent. When the worst offenders begin to disappear without a trace, the signs–all of them grim–seem to point toward Blue and his longtime associate, Joseph “General” Richardson. Now that Regina is pregnant, her fear for Blue’s safety has become an obsession that threatens the very heart of their relationship.

At the same time, Regina’s friend Aretha Hargrove is desperately trying to redefine her own marriage. Aretha’s husband, Kwame, is lobbying for them to leave West End and move to midtown. Aretha resists at first, but finally agrees in an effort to rekindle the flame that first brought them together.

Regina and Aretha have no way of knowing that what they regard as their private struggles will soon become very public. When Baby Brother, a charming con man, insinuates himself into the community, it becomes clear that there is more to his handsome façade than meets the eye. He carries the seeds of change that will affect both women in profound and startling ways.

Returning to the vividly rendered Atlanta district of her last two novels, New York Times bestselling author Pearl Cleage brilliantly weaves the threads of her characters’ intersecting lives into a story of family, friendship and, of course, love. Baby Brother’s Blues is full of wit and warmth, illumination the core of every woman’s hopes and dreams.


From the Hardcover edition.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:06:49 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

"When Regina Burns married Blue Hamilton, she knew he was no ordinary man. A charismatic R&B singer who gave up his career to assume responsibility for the safety of Atlanta's West End community, Blue had created an African American urban oasis where crime and violence were virtually nonexistent. In the beginning, Regina enjoyed a circle of engaging friends and her own work as a freelance communications consultant. Most of all, she relished the company of her husband, who never ceased to be a source of passion and delight." "Then everything changed. More and more frightened women were showing up in West End, seeking Blue's protection from lovers who had suddenly become violent. When the worst offenders begin to disappear without a trace, the signs - all of them grim - seem to point toward Blue and his longtime associate, Joseph "General" Richardson. Now that Regina is pregnant, her fear for Blue's safety has become an obsession that threatens the very heart of their relationship." "At the same time, Regina's friend Aretha Hargrove is desperately trying to redefine her own marriage. Aretha's husband, Kwame, is lobbying for them to leave West End and move to midtown. Aretha resists at first, but finally agrees in an effort to rekindle the flame that first brought them together." "Regina and Aretha have no way of knowing that what they regard as their private struggles will soon become very public. When Baby Brother, a charming con man, insinuates himself into the community, it becomes clear that there is more to his handsome facade than meets the eye. He carries the seeds of change that will affect both women in profound and startling ways."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

» see all 2 descriptions

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