Sunday, September 30, 2012

REVIEW: The Warmest December by Bernice L. McFadden


The Warmest December is the incredibly moving story of one Brooklyn family and the alcoholism that determined years of their lives. Narrated by Kenzie Lowe, a young woman reminiscent of Jamaica Kincaid's Annie John, as she visits her dying father and finds that choices she once thought beyond her control are very much hers to make.

Paperback, 288 pages
Published January 31st 2012 by Akashic Books (first published January 1st 2001)
ISBN 1617750352 (ISBN13: 9781617750359)

About the Author
from her website

Bernice L. McFadden was born, raised and currently lives in Brooklyn, New York. She is the eldest of four children and the mother of one daughter, R'yane Azsa. Ms. McFadden attended grade school at P.S. 161 in Brooklyn and Middle School at Holy Spirit, also in Brooklyn. She attended high school at St. Cyril Academy; an all-girls boarding school in Danville, Pa.

In the Fall of 1983 she enrolled in the noted NYC fashion college: Laboratory Institute of Merchandising, with dreams of becoming an international clothing buyer.

She attended LIM for two semesters and then took a position at Bloomingdale's and later with Itokin, a Japanese owned retail company.

Disillusioned and frustrated with her job, she signed up for a Travel & Tourism course at Marymount College where she received a certificate of completion. After the birth of her daughter in 1988, Bernice McFadden obtained a job with RockResorts a company then owned by the Rockefeller family.

The company was later sold and Ms. McFadden was laid off and unemployed for one year. She sites that year as the turning point in her life because during those twelve months Ms. McFadden began to dedicate herself to the art of writing. During the next nine years she held three jobs, always looking for something exciting and satisfying. Forever frustrated with corporate America and the requirements they put on their employees, Ms. McFadden enrolled at Fordham University. Her intention was to obtain a degree that would enable her to move up another rung on the corporate ladder.

She signed up for courses that concentrated on Afro-American history and literature, as well as creative writing, poetry and journalism. She credits the two years spent under the guidance of her professors as well as the years spent lost in the words of her favorite authors, to the caliber of writer she has become.

In 1997, Ms. McFadden quit her job and dedicated seven months to re-writing the novel that would become, "SUGAR."

In February of 1999, after nearly ten years, four drafts and 73 rejection letters - SUGAR was finally acquired by Dutton Publishers.

Published in the winter of 2000, SUGAR is still in print and in 2010 celebrated its tenth anniversary.

Bernice L. McFadden also writes racy, humorous fiction under the pseudonym, Geneva Holliday.

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My Thoughts

Kenzie spent her childhood in a war zone fueled by alcohol. Raised by an abusive father and a mother who gave up long ago, she and her brother Malcolm just tried to survive their childhood.

This is one of those books that begins at the end, and then is filled with flashbacks. It is a daughter, all grown up now, sitting by the bedside of her dying father, coming to terms with their past. Struggling with her own demons, she is forced to face the fact that her father had demons of his own, and to try to learn forgiveness.

This book had some very intense moments, and it is disheartening to think that there are so many children out there suffering through the same things that Kenzie suffers through in her story. This is a glimpse into a dark world that I was lucky enough to have been shielded from in my childhood, having been raised by a mother who always put her children first.

Bernice McFadden is very adept at drawing you into this desolate world-- one which you get the feeling she is all too familiar with herself.

My final word: Author Bernice McFadden does what she does well. Most of this book was a quiet, meandering walk through a sad and desolate landscape, with glimpses of beauty and islands of oasis amidst the misery. The final brief chapter of this book was beautiful and heart-wrenching, and had me in tears. If you are interested in experiencing the bleak lives of children growing up in households of abuse and alcoholism, told with effective writing and character development, and leaving you with a sense of hope, pick up this book!

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My Rating:



I received a copy of this book to review through the LibraryThing's Early Reviewers in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not financially compensated in any way, and the opinions expressed are my own and based on my observations while reading this novel.

1 comment:

Jennifer Juniper said...

This sounds good, I'll have to mark it down for when I finish the giant pile of books next to my bed!