Carmel Magazine

Carmel Magazine, spring 2018

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A Kind of Freedom by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton T his ambitious debut novel looks at three generations of a family in New Orleans: set in the mid-'40s with Evelyn and Renard; the mid- '80s with Jackie and Terry; and 2010, post- Katrina, with T.C. and Alicia. When Evelyn first finds Renard attrac- tive, her sister Ruby deems him inade- quate because one of his pants legs is slightly shorter than the other. Sexton ini- tiates a tone for the entire novel; this notion of unevenness being perceived as lack. Sexton's writing makes readers yearn for Evelyn and Renard to be together : "It wasn't what he was saying, but the way he was parceling out his story, like a mother would cut meat for a child, that made Evelyn's heart feel fragile." "Since that day was a Friday, she had to go the whole weekend without seeing him again. That was fine because she had memorized him." "…the feeling she'd been searching for her whole life had been missing because she hadn't met Renard, and now that he was here, she could grasp the higher octave of joy…." From the Jackie and Terry section: "…whatever pain had driven him out had managed to touch her, too, and she didn't have crack to deliver her from it…She poured her coffee, sat down on the sofa and stared ahead at the TV. "The Price is Right"…someone was betting on a two-seater sofa…but the woman was betting too much, $999…Jackie wanted to intercede, cry out Don't set your sights too high, girl, it won't hold…" Each of the three sections in this multi-gener- ational novel might be interpreted as warnings against and the repercussions of setting one's sights too high. When T.C. gets out of prison just in time to see his son born, the situation feels redemptive, a fresh start. In the glow of the moment, T.C. kisses his son's closed eyelids and says: "This is your mama. And I'm your daddy, and we love you. We gon' always be here for you, you hear? No matter what." A few days later, as T.C. and his friend Tiger are getting their marijuana crop ready to sell, Tiger delivers a sobering speech to T.C.—how things can look one way in the morning, and dif- ferent by nightfall: "You feelin' yourself, you got the whole day ahead of you, but let's see what you sayin' tonight, the world weighing on your shoulder. Shit look different in the twilight, don't it?" T.C. has made a vow to his infant son Malik, but when twilight falls on that child's life, that grown kid, where is that promised love? Toward the end of the book, Sexton returns us to the opening detail of Renard's uneven hem. Sewn into that off-kilter hem is Evelyn's doubt about their future. But only a few para- graphs later, Sexton gives us an ending that soars with hope. Michael Trouble: Martian Robots Invade, A Hospital Adventure by Renee Rodriguez T his inspiring book, part of a series, is for sick children, their parents and siblings, their doctors, nurses and caregivers. In 2002, Renee Rodriguez' nephew Michael was diagnosed with Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia. Over the next years that Michael prevailed over his disease, he and his aunt used storytelling to navigate difficult symptoms and treatments. On the morning he learns the doctors need to scan 90 C A R M E L M A G A Z I N E • W I N T E R 2 0 1 8 IN REVIEW B Y M E L A N I E B I S H O P Searching for Joy, Navigating Sickness, and Finding Redemption in Nature

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