Althea, Viola and Lillian are three sisters who grew up which each other, they thought they knew everything about one another. However they are all shocked when their matriarchal leader, Althea, is arrested alongside her husband Proctor for fraud. Viola and Lillian are now tasked with looking after their two nieces, Baby Vi and Kim. Not only do they have to handle the new task of looking after teenagers but they also have to deal with their whole community despising their family for the suffering Althea and Proctor caused.
I recently found out my local library offer free ebooks/audiobooks through an app for their local residents. There are many books I'd like to read/listen to but I wanted to step outside my comfort zone and this was a highly recommended listen.
From the first few chapters I could tell this would be an emotional and raw depiction of the Butler family. Gray manages to show real emotion in every sentence that beautifully translates through an audiobook, I feel like I really am listening to the hardships that the family have gone through. Althea's chapters definitely came across the strongest. Her narrative from jail and then her prison cell show a completely shattered woman trying to rebuild herself after the realisation of her mistakes. I didn't fully understand her attitude toward Baby Vi and Kim, not allowing them to visit eventually led to Kim's disappearance and separation from the rest of the family.
This novel felt more like a depiction of a true story just due to how deeply rooted each character became to the story. Despite this I couldn't connect with any of them, although they were all going through a difficult time none of them were likeable enough for me to hope their progression was significant. Althea had done terrible things to those who cared about her and her community but still thought she deserved a happy life once her sentence was over, Viola and Lillian battled every time they saw each other and made no solid attempts to help Kim with her obvious emotional trauma. Baby Vi had a growing eating disorder that no one noticed because they were all so caught up in their own lives. We are meant to view their deepest flaws but still like them, it just wasn't good enough for me. They did not progress into solid characters even though they had evolved to better people than before.
A strong message was sent but the characters let this down for me. They showed a raw display of emotion throughout the novel but I couldn't get behind them and support their end choices. Beautiful writing either way and Gray should be proud of how well the personalities came out.