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Official Review: Two Kinds of Color by Deborah Kennedy

Please use this sub-forum to discuss any non-fiction books such as autobiographies or political commentary books.

Official Review: Two Kinds of Color by Deborah Kennedy

Post Number:#1 by fitzml
» 08 Aug 2012, 10:34

[The following is the official review of "Two Kinds of Color" by Deborah Kennedy.]

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Two Kinds of Color by Deborah Kennedy takes place on the South Side of Chicago, beginning in the 1950’s or so and ending in more recent times. It’s a dark, gritty tale that suffers from an identity crisis: At times it’s a whodunit. At other times it reads like a Charles Dickens classic. At other times it's reminiscent of The Color Purple. And at yet other times it reads like an Iceberg Slim novel. If pressed, I’d say the overarching theme of this story is the power of endurance over terrible odds: the enduring friendship between two women: Freddie Walker and Ruby Johnson, one white and one black, who have been friends since their teens, Freddie’s enduring love for her multi-racial and fatherless children, the bond between Freddie’s children that ultimately endures racial differences and years of separation and, finally, the enduring love of handsome local attorney Parker Bishop for Freddie Walker.

The test of their endurance is Jimmy Tate, a local gangster, pimp and lowlife extraordinaire. Jimmy once ruled the streets but his empire is crumbling all around him as cops he once bribed to look the other way are closing his gambling establishments. And most humiliating of all, his most “prized possession” – the smart and beautiful Freddie – has secretly accumulated enough wealth from her earnings to leave him and take her children, including eight year-old Angela, with her. Young Angela is the only one of Freddie’s brood that is sired by Jimmy, and he alternates between parental pride and brutal exploitation as he uses Angela as a means to keep Freddie under his control. Jimmy’s vile affection for Freddie leads to a violent confrontation that sets off a chain of events that threatens to destroy them all.

I had several problems with the first half of this story. The awkward phrasing, overused expressions and unique word combinations left me scratching my head. The story meandered at times with events and one-appearance characters that contributed nothing significant to the story line and robbed what could have been a suspenseful buildup had there been a recurring theme to tie all the events together. Another problem for me was that some things just weren’t believable: Jimmy never tried to find out who was trying to bring him down. Ruby was admirable but too one-dimensional. I did like the author’s colorful street descriptions and could almost experience the sights, sounds and tastes. Also, with better character development, Angela could have been a fascinating study. She was a psychopath in training, as brutal and repugnant as she was heartbreaking.

The book redeems itself in the second half of the story, where the author seems to write with more confidence. The dialogue starts to flow once the street vernacular is dropped, and the characters become more complex and interesting. Here’s where the author more fully explains the relationships between the characters and events that led up to that fateful confrontation. She also reveals that things aren’t always what they appear to be. The final twist at the end of the story truly surprised me, which doesn’t happen often.

Two Kinds of Color might be for you if you like your novels “noir-ish” and gritty and aren’t put off by pervasive foul language and graphic violence. Because of the awkward writing in the first half of the story and the lack of a strong and cohesive theme, I’d give it 2 out of 4 stars.

"Two Kinds of Color" on Amazon
"Two Kinds of Color" on Barnes and Noble

Please use this topic to discuss the book if you have read it, ask questions if you have not, or in either case comment on the above review by Fitzml.
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