Monday, 27 January 2014

Ain't Nobody's Business If I Do by Valerie Wilson Wesley

Ain't Nobody's Business If I Do is a fairly light comedy, less in the sense of being funny than in the Northrop-Frye sense of everything being resolved into its proper place and marriages cementing everything by the end of the book. As such, it's just okay. There are parts I liked a great deal, but then there were issues, and some of the dialogue was, quite frankly, clunky.

At the start of the book, Eva's husband Hutch leaves her, abruptly, and instead of talking about anything that's bothering him, because he doesn't feel enough "joy" in his life.

And that was the major flaw. For most of the book, every single problem could have been solved by people sitting down and talking about what they were thinking. There was nothing more complex or anguished than that. And the author didn't take the time to explain why one character found it difficult to talk about his feelings until the end of the book, by which point, it was a little late, and didn't explain everyone else's similar inability.

So that's frustrating, because it feels like false drama.

Anyway. Once Hutch has moved out, he begins an affair with his best friend's neglected and much-cheated-upon wife. Eva, on the other hand, finds herself in a passionate sexual relationship with a former boyfriend of her daughter, and that causes all sorts of waves. She and her daughter clash over this and her daughter's decision to leave her fiance and become a stand-up comic. Hutch and his son clash over Hutch's initial reaction to his son's sexuality.

Everybody's mad at somebody about something and no one will just TALK about it. Okay, let's put that flaw aside. Other than that, there are some moments of genuine emotion in here, as Eva learns how to negotiate her new single life, and the censure she gets for the path she chooses.

(On the other hand, the author tries to hard to balance having Hutch do and say some really assholish stuff but not have him be an asshole. It doesn't quite work - either the words and actions need to be toned down some, or she needs to work less on making him a nice guy. There's a dissonant note there.)

And while some of the book is really very good, every once in a while there would come a line of dialogue that was so fake, so dissonant that it made me pull my head out of the book and shake my head.

I found it interesting that she was writing a book about upper-middle-class Black family life and had race be present, but not what the story was about. There's a weird thing that happens in some reactions to stories written by non-white authors, that they're judged for either being too much race, or censured because race is incidental. I'd like to see and read a wide variety of voices, that run the entire gamut of experience. This particular one definitely falls on the latter part of the spectrum.

I haven't looked into the author any more, but I hope this is an early effort, and I hope she gets better as she goes, because there is some real promise here. It just needs slightly better dialogue, and conflicts that can't be resolved if two people would just have one conversation in which substantive things were said.

No comments:

Post a Comment