She's The One
She’s The One presents an interesting storyline – a successful, single, black thirty-something librarian suddenly finds herself named guardian of an old friend’s biracial daughter. But the characters fail to draw sympathy, and the story falls on the flat side, despite a lively (if uneven) plot.
Deanna Lindsay is comfortable in her upscale Manhattan life, with her respectable job as Information Manager for a network news research department, and her white security company owner boyfriend Richard. Then she gets the call from the morgue: one Stacy Lowell, carrying Deanna’s name and number on her person, has died in a car accident, and Deanna is asked to come and identify the body. Even as Deanna agrees, the mention of Stacy takes her back to time she thought she’s put behind her. A time when she’d found herself in the waiting room of an abortion clinic, and met a scared white teen. Deanna had her abortion, but Stacy didn’t. What each had needed most was a friend, and Stacy came to live with Deanna for a brief while. Deanna hadn’t seen Stacy since, and she’d always assumed that Stacy had the abortion eventually. But she’s about to find out how wrong she was.
At the morgue, Deanna meets another friend of Stacy’s, a handsome black man named Patterson Temple. They take an instant dislike to each other – he thinks she’s not stable enough or ready to take on Stacy’s child while she thinks he’s arrogant and judgmental – but decide to try to put aside their enmity for Stacy’s sake, and for her daughter, a beautiful, biracial six year old named Jade. Of course, each eventually decides they were wrong about the other, but I had a problem with this, since I felt their original assumptions had been pretty astute.
Meanwhile, Jade’s father Marcus, an ex-con, appears. He wants custody of Jade, but he’s not willing to go through legal channels. He clearly has no interest in the child herself, but is convinced that the government will shower him with money and freebies as her guardian. This part of the novel didn’t really ring true, since Marcus had to have been aware of the desperate poverty in which Stacy and Jade had been living prior to Stacy’s death. However, this never occurs to him, and it never occurs to anyone else to point this out to him, even after his true motives become clear.
My main difficulties with this story spring from the heroine’s characteristics, many of which I found unlikable. For example, she ruminates on how difficult it is to become a successful black woman and overcome people’s prejudices against her, yet several pages later, she reflects on her opinion that female police officers can never be as competent as their male counterparts! Hypocrisy is just not an attractive attribute in a protagonist. Also, she displays TSTL tendencies when she offers Marcus – a threatening ex-con – money to leave her and Jade alone. This move made me question both her intelligence and her sanity. In addition, when she and Jade have won an important legal victory in their quest to stay together, does she decide to spend the rest of the day celebrating with her child? No. Instead, Deanna spends only some token time with Jade before bundling her off to a babysitter so that she can hop into bed with Patterson. While not all of Deanna’s actions are this problematic, these examples were too hard for me to overcome; I just couldn’t like Deanna.
The other problems with the book are not as glaring, but they’re still enough to distract the reader. First, there is the sub-plot regarding an overly-ambitious new member of Deanna’s staff. It never actually meshes with the rest of the story, which makes the reader wonder why it’s there. Secondly, while there is a definite parallel between Patterson’s issues – he’s recently found out that he has a seventeen year old son that he never knew about – and Deanna’s, the correlation fails to progress to what seemed a logical finale. Patterson feels betrayed that his son’s mother never revealed his son’s existence to him, and yet, they never address the fact that Deanna had an abortion without ever alerting the father to the existence of the fetus, let alone its demise. I felt rather cheated by the failure of the book to reach what seemed like such a natural, if controversial, conclusion.
In spite of these problems, the plot does raise some interesting questions, and the characters and their actions are interesting – if more on an intellectual level than an emotional or sympathetic one. In fact, perhaps the biggest difficulty I had with this book was that the problematic characters got in the way of a decent plot, and I could have enjoyed it much more without these little character ‘quirks’.
While Ms. Kitt clearly has an ability to write good work, I recommend passing on She’s The One, and checking out some of her other works, which have received favorable grades from us. This book promises much, but fails to deliver.