Friday, February 20, 2009

Book Rec: Jump at the Sun by Kim McLarin

Okay, I clearly suck at writing every day. But I'm here today, so let's get going.





I've just finished reading Jump at the Sun by Kim McLarin. It's hard to describe what this book is about because it's about so many things really, but at its root it's about maternal ambivalence. The protagonist, Grace, is a black women who has recently located to the suburbs of Boston with her husband and two daugthers. She is a sociologist who did not earn tenure at Duke and who is presently staying at home with her children. The book opens with her desperate realization that the unprotected sex she had with her husband could very well lead to baby #3 and that's the last thing she wants. The story then becomes her own articulation of her ambivalence and desperation, interwoven with the stories of her mother and grandmother, two women who made very different choices about the way they mothered.



This book was riveting and disturbing. At one point Grace is having a day that is very familiar to me--her children are unexpectedly out of school and are demanding to be entertained every minute of the day. She is at her wit's end, tired of their bickering, bored out of her mind with Candyland, and desperately needing a break. I've been there. I daresay there isn't a mother who hasn't been there. Grace's response to this though, contemplating leaving them (even going so far as to send them into the house and stand on the front porch rationalizing just walking away), freaked me out. I had to put the book away for a few days before I could continue.



What I ultimately loved about this book is how human and flawed Grace is. There is seemingly nothing at all wrong with her life (big house, bills paid, healthy beautiful kids, loving husband), yet still she is unhappy. That made her unhappiness more believable to me because it was real. Sometimes you just don't know what the problem is. McLarin isn't trying to tell me that suburbia is evil or that motherhood is soul-sucking or that black women are the mules of the world (though all those things might be true). She gives me a brief window into the mind of a woman who has tons of questions but very few answers and that, for me, made the book a worthwhile read.

3 comments:

NaySue said...

I have this book and still have not read it. I can't even say that it's at the top of the list. After reading your review, I bumped it up . . . a little at least.

Southern Diva said...

I read this book a while back, and I kept thinking that she expressed a lot of what I was feeling at the time very well. It really hit home.

Claudia said...

Great review! Just like NaySue, I have had this book on my shelf for months and never picked it up. But it sounds as if it expresses much of my own experiences (joys AND frustrations) of being a mom. And this line from your review really struck me: Sometimes you just don't know what the problem is. So true, so true....