Review by Rwill0988 -- Kalayla by Jeannie Nicholas

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Rwill0988
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Review by Rwill0988 -- Kalayla by Jeannie Nicholas

Post by Rwill0988 »

[Following is a volunteer review of "Kalayla" by Jeannie Nicholas.]
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3 out of 4 stars
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Kalayla by Jeannie Nicholas is a story about family that is told from the perspectives of three women. Maureen and Kalayla moved into an apartment owned by Lena after the death of Jamal, their husband and father, respectively. Maureen's family has disowned her for marrying a Black man. They have never met Kalayla, who is her mixed-race daughter. Maureen is afraid to ask Jamal’s family for help because she is worried his mother will take Kalayla away. Lena is an Italian widow who has shut out the world after the estrangement of one son, the death of two others and the strained relationship with the one left behind. The women's relationships start as acquaintances turning into friendships and then a loose family unit. By helping each other, they heal old wounds and begin to live again.

My favorite parts of the story always included secondary characters. Rico, Lucinda, Carlotta, Mattwo and Kieran helped develop the story and provided insight into the main characters. It seemed that without these characters, all three of our protagonists would stagnate. Lena goes to Carlotta, Rico and Mattwo for help regularly. Kalayla develops as a character through her friendship with Kieran and working for Rico and Carlotta. Maureen becomes a stronger person and a better mother because all these people work together to help her.

The writing style appealed to me. There were almost no spelling or grammatical errors. The writing was balanced between internal reflection, exposition and dialogue. One of the most enjoyable parts of the book is when the author devotes three chapters to Maureen’s birthday party. One chapter for each perspective. These chapters highlight how different people perceive the same event differently.

Some things might deter people from enjoying this book. This book tiptoes around a lot of difficult topics. There were several forms of racism, sexual assault, physical assault, spousal abuse, a sex club and a fair amount of swearing or pseudo-swearing from Kalayla. The frustrating part of these situations is they were often brought up and then never addressed again. One instance was when Jamal and Clarences are threatened with knives and a gun by a group of teenage white boys. It obviously impacts their relationship and their personalities. The author only mentions this story once but uses it consistently to justify Clarence's behaviour. Another instance includes an attempted rape of a character. After almost being raped, two women comfort the attacker. There are no repercussions for the attempted assault. Both of these instances really frustrated me.

I also disliked how being a mixed-race child was explored in this book. At the beginning of the book, Kalayla is isolated, angry and described as likely to get into trouble. This is also the part in the book where she spends more time with the Leeroyce family. After she throws a birthday party for her mother, she slowly becomes more responsible, open to friendships and productive. This coincides with her embracing the Irish side of her heritage and family. This may have been unintentional, but I could not help but notice it. It also did not help that while her Grandma is described as a strong Black woman, the author picks the Italian Lena and Lotta to help Kalaya stay out of trouble.

This novel is well-written style-wise, but I did not find the story enjoyable. The tiptoeing around topics in the novel really impacted my enjoyment of the book. This is why I am rating Kalayla 3 out of 4 stars. While I would not reread Kalayla, I believe other people might enjoy it. I would recommend this to young adults and adults who read stories told from multiple perspectives and are not expecting the topics discussed to be fully resolved.

******
Kalayla
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Post by Sakura5 »

It is interesting that in this book it seems secondary characters are crucial in keeping the narration going. Nice review!
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Post by Michelle Menezes »

I think the issue with the LeeRoyce part of the family was Clarence. I understand that he went through a horrible experience as a child, but his behavior later cannot be excused. If only his parents, especially his mother who is a strong woman, had taken some action to keep him in check, it wouldn't have come to the point where he almost raped Maureen.
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Post by Dzejn_Crvena »

We share a similar view on the downside of this book.
I am also frustrated about Clarence's character.
Thank you for your honest review.
just call me "jane" :tiphat:
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Post by Prisallen »

It's too bad the author didn't go more into the issues that you felt weren't explored enough. Otherwise, it seems like a book with well-developed characters. Thanks for your wonderful review!
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Post by smolbird »

My reading experience was also impacted by the tiptoe-ing around certain topics, and I almost felt like Kalayla's race could have been explored more. Thank you for the insightful review!
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Post by Rwill0988 »

Sakura5 wrote: 11 Jun 2021, 09:28 It is interesting that in this book it seems secondary characters are crucial in keeping the narration going. Nice review!
I would definitely agree with that! Thank you for your comment.
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Rwill0988
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Post by Rwill0988 »

Michelle Menezes wrote: 11 Jun 2021, 12:24 I think the issue with the LeeRoyce part of the family was Clarence. I understand that he went through a horrible experience as a child, but his behavior later cannot be excused. If only his parents, especially his mother who is a strong woman, had taken some action to keep him in check, it wouldn't have come to the point where he almost raped Maureen.
I agree. The strength that his mother showed made me surprised that she hadn't helped him or kept him in check. What happened to him as a child was heartbreaking and definitely would've changed him. Though as adults we are responsible for our actions and it is hard to believe that he didn't know that almost raping Maureen, his brother's widow, was wrong. Thank you for your comment!
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Rwill0988
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Post by Rwill0988 »

Dzejn_Crvena wrote: 19 Jun 2021, 22:11 We share a similar view on the downside of this book.
I am also frustrated about Clarence's character.
Thank you for your honest review.
It is subtle enough that some readers might miss it, but it definitely stuck with me. Thank you for commenting!
“Give me a man or woman who has read a thousand books and you give me an interesting companion. Give me a man or woman who has read perhaps three and you give me a very dangerous enemy indeed.” ~ The Witching Hour by Anne Rice
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Post by Rwill0988 »

Prisallen wrote: 24 Jun 2021, 08:32 It's too bad the author didn't go more into the issues that you felt weren't explored enough. Otherwise, it seems like a book with well-developed characters. Thanks for your wonderful review!
I wonder if she did that to keep the book concise but I would have been okay with a longer book and having the issues explored. The characters were worth spending more time with. Thank you for commenting!
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Post by Rwill0988 »

smolbird wrote: 11 Jul 2021, 05:43 My reading experience was also impacted by the tiptoe-ing around certain topics, and I almost felt like Kalayla's race could have been explored more. Thank you for the insightful review!
Would you have been okay with the book being longer if she had decided to delve more into those topics or Kalayla's race? I think I would have been. Thank you for comment!
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Post by MsH2k »

How Clarence’s character was dealt with was a disappointment. I really enjoyed your thoughtful take on this story. Great review!
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Post by NetMassimo »

Family drama is not my thing but I keep finding very positive reviews of this novel, so it must have something good. Thank you for your great review!
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Post by Brandy_Nyongesa »

Racism and domestic violence are very serious topics that should be addressed. The characters in this book have been well developed. Great review it is.
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Post by RayRuff »

A very well-written review. I have seen quite a few reviews on this book. Seems to be liked but people also have their concerns. I know I wouldn't read this book since I am not the biggest fan when it comes to contemporary topics but I enjoyed reading your review :)
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