Friday, August 12, 2022

NDG Book Review: ‘Our Gen’ is a delightful surprise

By Terri Schlichenmeyer

Sometimes, you just have to lay your burden down.

When it’s heaviest, when your arms can’t support it and your back breaks from the weight of it, when your shoulders and your heart ache from it, release it. Let it go, let it be. Or, as in the new novel, “Our Gen” by Diane McKinney-Whetstone, ask a friend to lend a hand.

Cynthia hated everything about the Sexagenarian, an over-55 complex to which she’d moved. She hated that her son and his wife had all but forced her to move there, that “The Gen” wasn’t her old house, and that all her belongings were in boxes. As she lamented to her best friend, Gabrielle, Cynthia missed her old neighborhood and her old life.

Having said that, now, she did have to admit that her newly-built cottage was airy and bright and, contrary to what she was afraid of, she wasn’t the only Black person in a sea of white faces. Oh, and she also met a man, not even 24 hours after moving in, although he didn’t seem like he was exactly single.

Bloc never meant to sleep with Cynthia because he thought he was dating Tish – although Tish could be cruel sometimes, like she was better than everybody. Still, he enjoyed being around her and her friends. Being the only Black man living at The Gen was very interesting…

It had been years – decades, actually – since Tish’s father had died on the floor of a brothel, but she never forgot the humiliation of it. Imagine: her father, a widely respected professor, a charismatic speaker, in the arms of a common trollop!

Tish spent her entire life erasing the idea of it all.

Having worked as a sometime-spy for most of her adult life, Lavia loved living at The Gen. It was a great place to practice her skills and besides, she was born on a cruise ship and never really had a home before. Lavia didn’t talk about her past, but she knew things – things like, for instance, that secrets and half-truths can’t stay hidden forever.

Ahhhhhh. That’s what you’re going to say when you have a cold beverage next to your chair and this wonderful surprise of a book in your lap.

You have to love a novel that starts out like “Our Gen” does, with a holistic medicine that works too well, and a hazy tryst on an air mattress. Everything moves up from there in an easy story told with the feel of a lazy-hot afternoon spent listening to music with good friends.

But don’t get too comfortable.

Author Diane McKinney-Whetstone has some shockers in store for her readers, the kind that don’t seem like much until two pages later and then…. boom, there’s love and fifty-year-old heartache. Snap, the past comes roaring back. Pop, and secrets are gracefully kept.

Beware that there are some adult themes inside “Our Gen,” but truly, it’s an otherwise delightful surprise. Enjoy, and ask yourself if your bookclub might not be down with it, too.

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