3 out of 4 stars
Share This Review
In this contemporary fiction set at the onset of the new millennium, Kalayla revolves around the interconnected lives of three female characters in each respective generation. Told from multiple perspectives, this novel is a realistic portrayal of a story of a child, a mother, and a grandmother. In this harrowing tale, Kalayla LeeRoyce is a feisty girl who wants to be reconnected with her long-lost family. Maureen O’Rourke-LeeRoyce is doing her best in raising Kalayla while coping with the death of her spouse. And Lena Manero Barzetti, their landlady, is hiding a dark past that has been haunting her for more than a decade. They form an unlikely friendship that involves family issues that bind them together until they have to face each own demons.
How will Kalayla react if she finds out that her mother lied to her all these years? How will Maureen restore the connection between the family who disowned her and her child? What is Lena’s role in the reconciliation between Kalayla and Maureen?
My reading experience was a smooth-sailing journey. I did not have to stop for the words to sink into my understanding. The author’s engaging writing style is not challenging to read, and it did not confuse me when there were new characters. As for the story itself, I am constantly thinking about the aftermath of the relationship of the couple in If You Come Softly: What happens if they end up together and have a child? The main characters have gradual character development in the end, and I love the dynamics of how each one brings out the best in the others. They are humans like us with relatable problems. I like the usage of analogies in dealing with problems in life. Overall, I find this book inspirational for me to persevere in life when there is still a chance to pursue something and to let go of my fears.
The only thing that did not leave a lasting impression on me is the plot. There is no room for me to predict the outcome of their conflict. I expected the plot twist throughout introducing the novel, and I did not find any surprising revelation in the end. Also, Kalayla has overplayed rude behavior towards Lena even after all the pampering she got from “The Crabby Old Lady”.
I give this book a rating of 3 out of 4 stars. While Kalayla looks exceptionally well-edited to me, there is one conflict resolution that appears incomplete and rushed. I cannot stop thinking about it, and I was expecting a more realistic scene of the last encounter of the main characters with Clarence, Kalayla's uncle.
If you are looking for a slice-of-life story with family drama and diverse characters, this debut novel of Jeannie Nicholas is for you. Content warning: this book includes themes on racism, domestic abuse, and rape. Fans of Jacqueline Woodson should give this a try.
View: on Bookshelves | on Amazon