...[a] luminous and remarkably assured first novel ... For a debut novelist to take up such charged material is daring; to succeed in lending free-standing life to her characters without yielding an inch to sentimentality — or its ugly twin, pathology — announces her as a writer of uncommon nerve and talent ... All this can bring to mind Jesmyn Ward’s Salvage the Bones, but where Ward is Faulknerian in her rhetorical sweep, Sexton maintains a cool, detached naturalism more reminiscent of Tayari Jones in Leaving Atlanta. Whether writing of black girlhood, the quotidian fears and hopes of mothering, or the lure of street life, she places her characters in the path of momentous choices while making it clear they have little to hope for ... A Kind of Freedom attends to the marks left on a family where its links have been bruised and sometimes broken, but dwells on the endurance and not the damage. The force of this naturalistic vision is disquieting; it is also moving. One could say that it has the disenchanting optimism of the blues. Though her style differs sharply from Zora Neale Hurston’s sassy lyricism, Sexton looks upon her characters much as Janie views her life in Their Eyes Were Watching God — 'like a great tree in leaf with the things suffered, things enjoyed, things done and undone.'”
...a moving debut ... The inequities go on and on, a point powerfully emphasized by the novel’s structure, which splits A Kind of Freedom into short sections centered on Evelyn, Jackie and T.C. Ingeniously, Sexton tells Evelyn’s story, then Jackie’s, then T.C.’s, then cycles back to Evelyn, and so on, zigzagging from the past to the future, and back again, until the different eras almost feel like one relentless present day. In turn, Evelyn, Jackie and T.C. become parents; in turn, their own dreams thwarted, they each look forward to a better life for their children, aspirations that the book, with its hopscotch timeline, has already diminished, even revoked.
...[an] incredible achievement. A Kind of Freedom is a portrait of a family and a richly layered exploration of their sufferings ... what is most remarkable about the tapestry of these stories is the way each person’s section is written a little differently from the last, like varying fabrics. Evelyn’s chapters and T.C.’s are written so distinctly that at times it feels like a completely different person wrote them. Wilkerson Sexton’s ability to change the style of writing to fit the time period is one of the most impressive aspects of the novel ... a deft portrait of a family and the way they suffer over generations. This remarkable debut marks Margaret Wilkerson Sexton as a writer worth watching.