Loving Donovan, by Bernice McFadden.
Loving Donovan, by Bernice McFadden. Akashic Books (2015), Edition: Second Edition, Paperback, 224 pages. (First published in 2004.)
5 stars — FAVORITE
Another compelling novel by an African American writer featuring the stories of a man and woman, each emotionally scarred as a child, reaching out to each other with love.
Bernice McFadden is the author of ten novels, several of which have won literary prizes. She is one of my favorite African American writers. Her prose is spare and powerful, moving easily between characters and their pasts. The people in her book are vividly alive, believable, and complex. She does not hide their pain, but her calm, understated manner of describing it is compelling. And for her, pain can be transcended, in this book as in the others I have read by her. McFadden never denies pain but she is essentially a hopeful writer.
Loving Donovan is divided into three section; Her, Him, and Them. The first sections deal separately with Campbell and Donovan growing up in Brooklyn, not far from each other but never meeting. Both belong to solidly working-class families, but both families are torn by violence and lack of love. When they meet, both Campbell and Donovan have created successful lives for themselves, but they are still seeking love. At first they seem to find it with each other, but their pasts haunt them. The book’s ending is unconventional, but I thought perfect. (The fact that my plot summary is full of “but” is a clue to the human contradictions that McFadden depicts.)
While this book is set firmly within the African American community, it is not about segregation or racial interaction as some of McFadden’s books have been. Instead it is a narrative of individuals and families; a narrative that none of us can pretend can only happen to other people.
I enthusiastically recommend Loving Donovan, and others by McFadden.
Akashic Books is to be congratulated for reissuing the books of this fine writer. I am grateful to them for sending a copy of McFadden’s latest to read and review.
Other books by McFadden that I have reviewed and recommend: