Review of Kalayla

This forum is for volunteer reviews by members of our review team. These reviews are done voluntarily by the reviewers and are published in this forum, separate from the official professional reviews. These reviews are kept separate primarily because the same book may be reviewed by many different reviewers.
Forum rules
Authors and publishers are not able to post replies in the review topics.
User avatar
Mrs D O
Posts: 438
Joined: 04 Mar 2020, 08:23
Currently Reading: Wild World
Bookshelf Size: 36
Reviewer Page: onlinebookclub.org/reviews/by-mrs-d-o.html
Latest Review: Kalayla by Jeannie Nicholas

Review of Kalayla

Post by Mrs D O »

[Following is a volunteer review of "Kalayla" by Jeannie Nicholas.]
Book Cover
4 out of 4 stars
Share This Review


The cover of this book depicts three female faces, emerging from the vibrant colours of an ink blot butterfly. This image vividly represents the story that unfolds within. Kalayla by Jeannie Nicholas is a fictional novel set in the summer of 1999 in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Three female characters narrate the story, expressing their perspectives in alternating chapters. Lena is a prosperous 72-year-old property developer and landlady of Italian descent. The violence and adultery of her late husband impacted her and inhibited the relationship bonds with her four sons. Only two are still alive, and they are estranged from her. When she emerged from the marriage as a widow, all the brightness of her life had faded to monochrome. She wears only black and lives in a stark white apartment.

Maureen and her eleven-year-old daughter, Kalayla, have moved into an apartment across the hall from their landlady, Lena. Kalayla misses family life with her Irish American mother and her late African American father, Leroy. Maureen couldn't cope as a single parent when Leroy died, so Kalayla learned to look after herself. While Maureen works long hours, Kalayla occupies herself with jobs, exploration, and reading in the library. Due to her mistrust of Uncle Clarence, Kalayla remains vigilant and protective of Maureen when he visits. Her resilience and sense of responsibility are admirable, but Lena can detect the tinge of neglect. She notices that Kalayla is an unkempt, unruly, and friendless loner with a foul mouth.

Kalayla's behaviour perplexes Maureen, and she finds it difficult to relate to her. She has struggled to cope since Leroy died; his parents are supportive, but she fears they will take Kalayla from her if they see that she cannot manage. There is no support from her family. It is as if they are dead, and she has told Kalayla that they are indeed dead. After painting their home with bold, bright colours, Maureen has suppressed her artistic talent and works long, dull hours as a cleaner. Lena realises that Kalayla and Maureen need support and she decides to intervene. You can be sure that Kalayla has a few choice words to say about that!

It was a privilege to share the perspective of each main character. Jeannie Nicholas has ensured that readers can gain insight into their situations and learn about social issues. Single mothers, and those who do not bond with their children, face harsh criticism and judgment. Also, the support needs of a parentified child (one who feels they have to take over adult tasks) can be overlooked.

Amid humour and fascinating details of cultural diversity, the story realistically depicts psychosocial issues. Descriptions of domestic violence and racially motivated violence are chilling, and the victim's trauma is palpable. I'm still processing the ethical dilemmas presented in the book. For instance, a man who attempts rape experiences debilitating post-traumatic stress disorder when threatened with a gun. He regressed to the same state of trauma caused by a vile racist attack when he was a child. He needed support as a victim, but was he not still the perpetrator of rape? Did the childhood trauma cause his behaviour?

Pervading themes in the story include family secrets, lies, and familial bonds. Lena lies by omission to protect secrets; Maureen keeps a secret from Kalayla by lying. I appreciated how the novel shows the damage secrets and lies can cause in relationships. And it was heartening to see the revelation of painful truths creating a healing crisis to correct the damage. I enjoyed the development of non-judgemental bonds between the characters. They had all experienced family loss and rejection; Maureen's family disowned her because she married an African American. My thoughts return to the butterfly. All three characters share the colours of a symbol for new beginnings.

There is nothing I disliked about this book, but I feel that there are areas that deserve further development. Kalayla makes a few of her typically smart-mouthed remarks about her biracial heritage, indicative of her trying to understand her identity. The novel does not enlarge on this, so Kalayla's character development is incomplete. I think Clarence (Jamal's brother) also requires more attention. He's a complex character, and I would like to learn more about his perspective.

This book impressed me. It was professionally edited, as I didn't find any errors. It was so engaging, entertaining, and thought-provoking that it deserves 4 out of 4 stars, and I hope there will be a sequel.

There are scenes and issues that some readers may prefer to avoid. These include physical and sexual violence, racially motivated violence and homophobia. The book also contains profane language. I would recommend it to mature teenagers and adults, especially those who enjoy fiction involving realistic social issues and inspirational female characters.

******
Kalayla
View: on Bookshelves | on Amazon
Jelly_J
Posts: 297
Joined: 10 Jul 2022, 16:39
Currently Reading:
Bookshelf Size: 29
Reviewer Page: onlinebookclub.org/reviews/by-jelly-j.html
Latest Review: Annihilation by Kaylin McFarren

Post by Jelly_J »

I can't imagine what it must have been like for kalayla's mother to lose her husband at an early age and still work so hard to take care of her daughter. I hope Miss Lena helps set kalayla on the right path. A very detailed review, kudos.
User avatar
Prisallen
Previous Member of the Month
Posts: 5647
Joined: 27 Feb 2019, 18:57
Favorite Book:
Currently Reading:
Bookshelf Size: 230
Reviewer Page: onlinebookclub.org/reviews/by-prisallen.html
Latest Review: Raising Father by M. Lee Fox

Post by Prisallen »

I love reading books with great character development and this book seems to have that, although, as you pointed out, it sounds like Kaylala's character could have been a bit more thorough. Nonetheless, I think I would greatly enjoy this story. Thanks for an excellent review!
User avatar
Amy Luman
Member of the Month
Posts: 2594
Joined: 29 Mar 2021, 14:05
Currently Reading: Murder in Memory
Bookshelf Size: 700
Reviewer Page: onlinebookclub.org/reviews/by-amy-luman.html
Latest Review: Final Act by Van Fleisher
Reading Device: B00JG8GOWU

Post by Amy Luman »

I don’t like that Lena and Maureen feel that they need to resort to lying to protect their feelings and those of others. As it is, I can’t blame Kalayla for resorting to the kind of behavior that she does.
User avatar
diana lowery
Previous Member of the Month
Posts: 2280
Joined: 11 Feb 2019, 07:39
Currently Reading: Shadows of Pecan Hollow
Bookshelf Size: 255
Reviewer Page: onlinebookclub.org/reviews/by-diana-lowery.html
Latest Review: Dirtbags and Dead Bodies by Dr. Jeffrey Snider
Reading Device: B00IKPYKWG
2022 Reading Goal: 50
2022 Goal Completion: 72%

Post by diana lowery »

Oh My Goodness! I have seen the cover of this book so many times, yet I never took the time to analyze it. Thank you for helping me to understand the symbolism.
User avatar
MsH2k
Previous Member of the Month
Posts: 3987
Joined: 31 Jul 2019, 11:11
Favorite Book: Crushing
Currently Reading: My Daddy is in Heaven
Bookshelf Size: 306
Reviewer Page: onlinebookclub.org/reviews/by-msh2k.html
Latest Review: One Bad Break by Barry Minnett Jr

Post by MsH2k »

Like diana lowery, I have looked at this cover many times and did not notice the connection with the rainbow or new beginnings. And Kalayla, being our spotlight, has the most vibrant colors reflected in her face. As usual, Mrs D O, you do not disappoint with your keen insight into a storyline. Clarence's character was indeed troubling, but I must confess I am relieved his situation did not have a larger presence in the story. Although I am interested in knowing more about what happened, I think it may have detracted from the already-full slate of delicate incidents and situations.

Thank you for your thorough and thoughtful review! :rainbow:
"Intense love does not measure, it just gives."
Mother Teresa
User avatar
Ellylion
Posts: 3249
Joined: 01 Mar 2019, 15:33
Favorite Book: The Altitude Journals
Currently Reading:
Bookshelf Size: 136
Reviewer Page: onlinebookclub.org/reviews/by-ellylion.html
Latest Review: The Islands Tell Of It by Patty Fischer

Post by Ellylion »

I believe it's a profoundly psychological read which is also very engaging. I would love to learn about Kalayla, Lena and Maureen's relationship more. Thank you very much for this outstanding review!
User avatar
Mrs D O
Posts: 438
Joined: 04 Mar 2020, 08:23
Currently Reading: Wild World
Bookshelf Size: 36
Reviewer Page: onlinebookclub.org/reviews/by-mrs-d-o.html
Latest Review: Kalayla by Jeannie Nicholas

Post by Mrs D O »

Jelly_J wrote: 03 Aug 2022, 01:06 I can't imagine what it must have been like for kalayla's mother to lose her husband at an early age and still work so hard to take care of her daughter. I hope Miss Lena helps set kalayla on the right path. A very detailed review, kudos.
Yes, it must have been difficult for Kalayla's mother. No wonder she struggled. Worry not, Lena is wise.... Thank you for your kind comment Jelly_J.
User avatar
Mrs D O
Posts: 438
Joined: 04 Mar 2020, 08:23
Currently Reading: Wild World
Bookshelf Size: 36
Reviewer Page: onlinebookclub.org/reviews/by-mrs-d-o.html
Latest Review: Kalayla by Jeannie Nicholas

Post by Mrs D O »

Prisallen wrote: 03 Aug 2022, 07:54 I love reading books with great character development and this book seems to have that, although, as you pointed out, it sounds like Kaylala's character could have been a bit more thorough. Nonetheless, I think I would greatly enjoy this story. Thanks for an excellent review!
Thanks for your lovely comment Prisallen. I'd like to see Kalayla's character develop in a sequel. She had such an endearing personality, even her insults were often well observed and funny.
User avatar
Mrs D O
Posts: 438
Joined: 04 Mar 2020, 08:23
Currently Reading: Wild World
Bookshelf Size: 36
Reviewer Page: onlinebookclub.org/reviews/by-mrs-d-o.html
Latest Review: Kalayla by Jeannie Nicholas

Post by Mrs D O »

Amy Luman wrote: 03 Aug 2022, 10:26 I don’t like that Lena and Maureen feel that they need to resort to lying to protect their feelings and those of others. As it is, I can’t blame Kalayla for resorting to the kind of behavior that she does.
I agree Amy Luman. Maureen's lie affected the relationship she had with Kalayla, so was one of the factors that influenced Kalayla's behaviour. Thank you for commenting.
User avatar
Mrs D O
Posts: 438
Joined: 04 Mar 2020, 08:23
Currently Reading: Wild World
Bookshelf Size: 36
Reviewer Page: onlinebookclub.org/reviews/by-mrs-d-o.html
Latest Review: Kalayla by Jeannie Nicholas

Post by Mrs D O »

diana lowery wrote: 03 Aug 2022, 14:39 Oh My Goodness! I have seen the cover of this book so many times, yet I never took the time to analyze it. Thank you for helping me to understand the symbolism.
I kept wondering about the dearth of colour in Lena's life. There are many butterflies in the garden and remembered how my brother used to knock the colour off them when he cruelly grabbed them (boys!). I thought of all the colour being knocked off Lena by her abusive husband. That's why I thought the cover illustration was significant. It was lovely to recieve you comment diana lowery, thank you.
User avatar
Mrs D O
Posts: 438
Joined: 04 Mar 2020, 08:23
Currently Reading: Wild World
Bookshelf Size: 36
Reviewer Page: onlinebookclub.org/reviews/by-mrs-d-o.html
Latest Review: Kalayla by Jeannie Nicholas

Post by Mrs D O »

MsH2k wrote: 03 Aug 2022, 15:04 Like diana lowery, I have looked at this cover many times and did not notice the connection with the rainbow or new beginnings. And Kalayla, being our spotlight, has the most vibrant colors reflected in her face. As usual, Mrs D O, you do not disappoint with your keen insight into a storyline. Clarence's character was indeed troubling, but I must confess I am relieved his situation did not have a larger presence in the story. Although I am interested in knowing more about what happened, I think it may have detracted from the already-full slate of delicate incidents and situations.
Thank you for your thorough and thoughtful review! :rainbow:
Ah yes, Kalayla's image is the most vibrant; she's an outstanding individual in every way. I agree that the book was already too busy for Clarence to be better represented. I think there's scope for a sequel that could expand on his character and Kalayla's during her teenage years. I do appreciate your lovely comments MsH2k, you've always said things that have encouraged me to keep going and get past the massive minus score I started with. And I'm enjoying the rainbow. Thank you.
User avatar
Mrs D O
Posts: 438
Joined: 04 Mar 2020, 08:23
Currently Reading: Wild World
Bookshelf Size: 36
Reviewer Page: onlinebookclub.org/reviews/by-mrs-d-o.html
Latest Review: Kalayla by Jeannie Nicholas

Post by Mrs D O »

Ellylion wrote: 04 Aug 2022, 06:25 I believe it's a profoundly psychological read which is also very engaging. I would love to learn about Kalayla, Lena and Maureen's relationship more. Thank you very much for this outstanding review!
Yes, there's some deeply psychological issues in the book that have kept me pondering. It was also entertaining and funny at times, so I thought it was well balanced. Many thanks for your encouraging comment Ellylion.
User avatar
Saint Bruno
Posts: 1769
Joined: 28 Aug 2020, 14:47
Favorite Author: Agatha Christie
Currently Reading: The Aleutian Voyage
Bookshelf Size: 190
Reviewer Page: onlinebookclub.org/reviews/by-saint-bruno.html
Latest Review: The Lion of Camelot by Robert Murray
fav_author_id: 2484
2022 Reading Goal: 100
2022 Goal Completion: 34%

Post by Saint Bruno »

This title has mostly received positive reviews, and this attests to its intrigue and quality. I enjoyed reading your review and hope to read the book as soon as I can. Thank you for your detailed review and recommendation.
User avatar
Mrs D O
Posts: 438
Joined: 04 Mar 2020, 08:23
Currently Reading: Wild World
Bookshelf Size: 36
Reviewer Page: onlinebookclub.org/reviews/by-mrs-d-o.html
Latest Review: Kalayla by Jeannie Nicholas

Post by Mrs D O »

Saint Bruno wrote: 05 Aug 2022, 23:15 This title has mostly received positive reviews, and this attests to its intrigue and quality. I enjoyed reading your review and hope to read the book as soon as I can. Thank you for your detailed review and recommendation.
Thank you Saint Bruno. I hope you have an opportunity to read Kalayla; it's enjoyable and thought provoking.
Post Reply

Return to “Volunteer Reviews”