Dolen Perkins-Valdez excels at mining the lives of nuanced, yet known, characters to convey the undying toll of slavery ... The author’s expert rendering of this more recent atrocity blankets it in a rich portrayal of family ... Part of the propulsive power of this work is its structure of alternating perspectives ... Perkins-Valdez also shines in her choice and development of characters ... Perhaps the most notable of this book’s gifts are its deft packaging of history and its quiet nod — in the juxtaposition of timelines — to the reproductive oppression haunting Black women to this day. Like the most effective education, though, it feels that the information is streaming through the heart, awakening it and inspiring it to action.
Affecting ... It would be easy to reach for melodrama and to overdo the empathy Civil displays throughout the book. Perkins-Valdez veers instead toward showing how it takes many people, across races...to undo injustices. One of the many triumphs of Take My Hand is that we see both the hard lives of the Williams family and their pride ... Take My Hand is meant to offer not absolution but accountability. It serves as an important reminder that the history of medical mistrust among the marginalized in our country stemmed from egregious acts we’d rather forget. But ignoring the past is not the answer; acknowledging and moving forward differently is the only way through.
In a perfectly orchestrated symphony of specificity, nuance, Jim Crow history and memory, Perkins-Valdez brings the events and images of Montgomery 1973 whizzing back like an unscheduled train rushing past a platform. As always, the author has clearly spent a great deal of time researching to ensure depth and accuracy. Perkins-Valdez paints Montgomery in such rich strokes, you can feel history breathing down your neck ... Not every reader will recognize the careful detail, but those who do will feel rewarded to finally behold a book that centers their experience. And in a novel that is steeped in the stew and issues of womanhood, Perkins-Valdez manages to get even the male characters on point ... In exploring unexplored events involving Black American women, Perkins-Valdez gives us a fuller, richer view of our nation’s history while also reminding readers that Black girls’ bodies and futures have never been protected in the American experiment ... Take My Hand reminds us that truly extraordinary fiction is rarely written merely to entertain ... Perkins-Valdez has done a fine job of building a structure and scaffolding that will not only endure but also bear the weight of future writers yearning to bring the past to readers afresh.
Engrossing from the start ... The novel explores the complex psychological impact of making decisions about reproduction or, conversely, having those decisions made for you without consent ... Take My Hand boasts gorgeous design and conversational prose. This being her third novel, Perkins-Valdez showcases her talent and experience through her easy command of voice, plot and pacing ... Throughout the novel, detailed descriptions command rapt attention. Between its sizable length and the immense amount of research and history poured into its more than 350 pages, Take My Hand is an excellent example of a Big Ambitious Novel by a 21st-century woman ... This is the kind of story you want to build extra time into reading so you can explore the wealth of history it draws upon.
Equipped with a startling ability to draw graceful fiction from grotesque history, Dolen Perkins-Valdez brings her talents to the 1970s ... Perkins-Valdez ushers in this central conflict slowly and methodically; when it arrives, the revelations that follow are unforgettable ... Readers will find it impossible to take in even a chapter without their gut twisting in recognition; the ghosts of these horrors are still alive today.
Take My Hand seems poised for an outrage that only barely arrives, perhaps because the reason for the railing is overshadowed by the main character, fussing at herself and her own decisions. In the beginning, in fact, author Dolen Perkins-Valdez doesn’t make her Civil very likable ... As for the plot, well, it’s slow — except when it’s not, and then reading it feels like skimming it, as though you only caught the highlights of it all. This unevenness can sometimes be hard to get through, but you must: that’s where the good of this novel lies ... Should you read this book anyhow? ... Yes, maybe, if you’re unfamiliar with Relf v. Weinberger, since this tale may act as a gentler, softer way to learn about it. Just beware its bumps, try Take My Hand, and make it your own.
As with her previous novels, Perkins-Valdez is concerned with the autonomy and independence of Black women, though this first foray into the 20th century feels more explicitly drawn from the headlines and, strangely, a little less intimate than her prior work. Perhaps it’s simply the limitations of a first-person point of view, which allows Civil to speak for herself but restricts our knowledge of India and Erica to Civil’s observations ... Still, Perkins-Valdez brings her trademark sensitivity to this compelling novel, and Civil moves between self-righteous anger at the perpetrators of the injustice to a wise understanding of 'how a person could get so caught up in doing good that they forgot the people they served had lives of their own.' It’s a lesson Civil herself, caught up in her own missionary zeal, struggles with, and one that dovetails nicely with the book’s complicated conclusion about the importance of self-determination and choice.
The book is a horrifying yet hauntingly poignant account of decades, if not centuries, of abuse at the hands of the American government, doctors and common citizens ... Perkins-Valdez does a remarkable job of tying together these two timelines while highlighting the progress made between each era --- and the shocking lack of progress as well. As a protagonist, the voice of a senior Civil is unforgettable, tinged by guilt and shame but no less intelligent and wise; her younger self is equally indelible, though for different reasons. The author is able to write a full-bodied portrait of an entire lifetime with nuance and complex layers ... Although Take My Hand centers on a particularly dark moment in human history (read: white history inflicted upon Black figures), it is also about the deeply universal theme of believing that you know what is right for others, and what happens when you take that belief too far. In her keen chronicling of reproductive harm and eventual justice, Perkins-Valdez unpacks a profound and tragic moment of United States history that must not be forgotten. While reminding us of the perils of taking the hand of anyone offering something too good to be true, she also demonstrates that if there is one hand to the truth of history we should take, it is hers.
With prose that steeps readers in this heart-wrenching story, Perkins-Valdez confronts with the atrocities that have been inflicted on those living in poverty while giving nuance and dignity to her characters along with glimmers of hope. This is an exceptional read.
There’s nothing better than settling down to read a novel and immediately sensing that you’re in the hands of a gifted storyteller. Such is the feeling from the first pages of Dolen Perkins-Valdez’s illuminating third novel, Take My Hand ... As reproductive rights continue to be at risk, Take My Hand could hardly be more timely. Perkins-Valdez offers an intriguing, detailed look at the way the government deals with such cases ... Perkins-Valdez’s fictional characters are well rounded, although hints at romance between Civil and the sisters’ father seem somewhat contrived.
By framing the story with Civil’s present-day experiences, Perkins-Valdez reminds readers that these events don’t belong to a long-forgotten past. This powerful, timely novel is an excellent choice for book clubs, as well as for readers of contemporary fiction featuring strong female characters.
Perkins-Valdez captivates with a scintillating story about Black women’s involuntary sterilizations in 1970s Montgomery, Ala ... Perkins-Valdez skillfully adds to the literature with a nuanced story personalized by Civil’s desire for redemption over her role in the sterilizations. This will move readers.
Author Perkins-Valdez deftly balances an older Civil, now an OB-GYN, acting as the first-person narrator with a young Civil experiencing the emotional weight of these events in real time ... Vividly highlights the deep and lasting impact of injustice.