Review

Baby Brother's Blues

by Pearl Cleage



Pearl Cleage has written several novels, including the Oprah pick
WHAT LOOKS LIKE CRAZY ON AN ORDINARY DAY. BABY BROTHER'S BLUES is
her latest, a story filled with interesting characters who weave in
and out of various subplots that take place in an Atlanta
suburb.


BABY BROTHER is a young African American man who is on leave from
Iraq due to the death of his mother. He doesn't attend her funeral,
but still tries to find a way to remain in the States. He's
currently in Atlanta, looking up his estranged sister who had
enough of him after all the years she tried to keep him out of
jail. But Baby Brother had been in and out of trouble for most of
his life. Iraq was supposed to have curbed his attitude, but the
war hasn't changed him one bit. Now he needs money to survive, and
hopes that his sister will come through for him and let bygones be
bygones.


BLUE is Blue Hamilton, sometimes referred to as a "gangsta," who
keeps his part of town, the West End, safe and free of crime. He
received his nickname because of his unusually blue eyes, which
stand out in the body of a black man. He commands respect from all
who meet him and inspires fear in those who defy him, ruling his
"people" with a fair but stern hand. His wife Regina, now pregnant
with their first child, fears for his life because of the work in
which he's involved. It is her wish that he throw in the towel and
have someone else take over his "job."


Blue and Baby Brother don't cross paths often, but Baby Brother's
entry into the West End has a big impact on Blue and some of the
people closest to him. One of them is General Richardson, Blue's
right hand man, who instills fear in many. Blue instructs General
to keep an eye on Baby Brother because Blue senses that this young
man may bring trouble to their neighborhood. General does as he's
told, but goes beyond Blue's code of ethics when he becomes
involved with a stripper named Brandi, who reminds him of his one
true love, Juanita, Blue's mother.


Blue's main code of ethics is to always tell the truth, believing
that lies only bring trouble. General already has disobeyed this
rule by promising Juanita on her deathbed never to reveal their
love for each other. While the reader may think that Brandi is none
of Blue's business, the lies from this relationship cause General's
life to spiral out of control.


African American Kwame Hargrove, the son of a very prominent figure
in Atlanta politics, Precious Hargrove, has a secret life separate
from his wife Aretha and their infant daughter Joyce Ann. He has a
fondness for other men, but is too afraid to come out in public
because of how the news would affect his family and his mother's
political career. Kwame's lies lead him along a dark path that
eventually involves Baby Brother, taking the story to a level that
will shock some readers.


Precious, who plans on becoming the next mayor of Atlanta, doesn't
know about her son's secret life. She's busy with her own political
agenda, which includes working with Police Captain Lee Kilgore, who
has little secrets of her own that could kill her career if she
isn't too careful.


Other characters populate the novel, all of whom weave in and out
of each other's lives. Blue, however, is the main thread that all
their stories come back to, with an unexpected conclusion that ties
everyone together. It's not a happy ending for some of them, but
readers will be satisfied with the characters who inhabit the book
and the resolution to their stories. There is a mix of people ---
some affluent and powerful, others barely scraping a living.


Pearl Cleage, known as one of today's top African American writers,
has done a good job binding all of these characters together,
despite their various stations in life. It's a novel about family,
love and loyalty, sometimes leading the reader to the darker side
of life.



   



















Reviewed by Marie Hashima Lofton (Ratmammy@lofton.org) on December 22, 2010

Baby Brother's Blues
by Pearl Cleage

  • Publication Date: February 27, 2007
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: One World/Ballantine
  • ISBN-10: 0345481119
  • ISBN-13: 9780345481115