When one thinks of ghost stories, they think of haunted houses and specters wailing in the midst of a stormy night, seeking peace for their untimely deaths. Sometimes, we fail to consider the ghosts of the living and how their wailing haunt us, refusing to let us continue our rightful paths.
In Anissa Gray’s debut, she presents a tale of a family haunting by ghosts stealing them of their helpful soul-feeding and how detrimental they eventually become to one’s desire for peace.
The Butler Family, consisting of sisters Viola, Lillian, and Althea, along with their brother Joe know trials and tribulations. However, it’s one trial uprooting their lives for which they are wholly unprepared.
Althea, de facto matriarch upon her mother’s death, raised her siblings because of their father’s role as traveling minister. Her role hardens her. She fails to see obstacles to her siblings’ health and well-being, preferring to relinquish love for preparation of the world’s indifference to their hurt. As she grows, she takes a difficult and bitter view on society, which lands her in jail, away from her also-imprisoned husband and her two daughters in desperate need of an open pair of eyes and a beating heart filled with a mother’s love.
However, in her place, Viola, her college-educated sister, suffering from Bulimia, and her soft-spoken and tender-hearted, sister, Lillian, take the reins of raising her two daughters, Baby Vi and Kim.
Along the way, we see how the ghosts of family violence, a mother’s premature death, and a father’s neglect shape these women and the girls seeking emotional shelter from their circumstances.
- Multiple First-Person Perspectives. Each sister receives a chance to share their point of view of their family. No blurring’s allowed. Their differences illustrate clear.
- Strong characterization. Althea’s the hard-ridged familial backbone. She raised her sisters young and she’s grown embittered. Viola’s, the one “who got away” via college, a lesbian, haunted by her family and purging its demons via an eating disorder, while maintaining love for them. Lillian, estranged for being her father’s favorite, serves as custodial guardian to her nieces and her Asian mother-in-law, but with her sweetness, she suffers from memories where their brother, Joe, serves a pivotal role.
- Strong Family Theme. Families store ghosts, but what’s important is how we harbor or release them. Do we identify with them? Do we expose them simply as viewers and not active participants? Also, while family’s complicated, do we ultimately deny ourselves for them?
- LGBTQA Representation. Viola, the middle sister, and her partner, Eva, while in the midst of a break, demonstrate comfort and not a tragic plot point, along with a shared male friend, who’s gay.
- Hunger Theme. When you hungry, you eat. But, what do you do when your soul’s starving? How do you sustain?
- A bit short, but when you enjoy a story, this con’s easy to ignore.
Bottom line, grab a copy of this book. I highly recommend feeding yourself, especially if you’re a hungry girl grappling with said themes this book discusses.