When Deirdre and Kenisha first meet it seems like they have nothing in common, but circumstances conspire to bring them together and build a surprising friendship. Deirdre is a high school principal with a lovely husband, but she's depressed because a medical condition has left her unable to have children. Kenisha is scraping through life as a single mother on benefits, having birthed three children to three different fathers, and has just been diagnosed with inoperable cervical cancer. Deirdre initially stereotypes Kenisha, thinking that it's impossible for such a woman to be a good mother, but she finds herself drawn to her son, Jamal. When Jamal calls Deirdre for help when his mother becomes ill, she begins to see Kenisha for who she really is and finds herself called to help her. But it may well be Kenisha who ends up helping her...
This is the first book I've read from the author, and also my first foray into the African-American genre. As far as I know, we don't have any race-specific genres in Britain, and although I've read some excellent books by black authors such as Dorothy Koomson and Malorie Blackman, I know that they don't specifically aim their books at a certain race. For this, I'm quite please as I doubt there's anyone out there aiming books at someone who is half Scottish, three-eighths English and one-eighth Indian! However, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and truly don't think that you have to be African-American in order to read it.
This book will really pull at your heartstrings, as would any story about someone in their twenties dying of cancer. I really felt for Kenisha and her anguish at leaving her children without a mother. Although there were a few moments where I had tears in my eyes, I wouldn't say that this is a depressing book. The way that Kenisha and Deirdre helped each other deal with their problems was incredibly uplifting. Each of them made judgements about the other but were able to overcome these in order to become friends and support each other. The character dynamics in this story were excellent, and Kenisha's children were adorable. I always find that children brighten up a story!
I did have a few problems with this book, namely in the last third. Although I really enjoy Christian fiction, I felt that a lot of this story focused on Deirdre trying to convert Kenisha and in some places it almost came across in a "Bible-bashing" manner, where Deirdre felt that conversion was more important than simply being there for her friend and letting God shine through her actions. I'm a firm believer of showing Christ to people through the way you speak and act, and waiting for them to ask you questions, rather than trying to talk about God all the time. This was mainly present in the last third of the book, and although it didn't make me dislike it, I do feel that it brings my rating down a bit. I also found the epilogue incredibly cheesy! I do like a happy ending but this overdid it a bit.
Although I felt that this novel had its faults, I'd definitely recommend it to anyone looking for unconventional Christian fiction. Kenisha isn't your typical heroine, but she's incredibly endearing and you'll find yourself rooting for her to let go of the past and to find peace with everyone in her life. I found it more difficult to relate to Deirdre as I felt that she'd caused so many of the issues she had in her life, but it was excellent seeing her grow as a character, and watching her overcome stereotypes and judgements in order to become friends with Kenisha. I also appreciate that the author felt brave enough to deal with so many popular issues in our society - drug addiction, single-parenthood, alcoholism, poverty, death, cancer, street crime, infertility - and that she did so in a tactful manner. So many Christian novels focus on "safe" topics, so I admire Vanessa Miller for stepping out of the mould. Definitely an author to watch!
Many thanks to Abingdon Press and NetGalley for giving me the chance to read and review this book.