Suzette, Maple and Agnes, three Black women with albinism, call Shreveport, Louisiana home. At the bustling crossroads of the American South and Southwest, these three women find themselves at the crossroads of their own lives.
Rather than overlap, the novellas resonate with one another, allowing Birdsong, a poet, to display an impressive range of perspectives. The book also illuminates the lived-in corners of a multifaceted city, where headlines like gentrification, economic precarity and crime take on a human scale ... One striking source of resonance is Birdsong’s depiction of her characters’ sexuality: frank, unembarrassed and often delightful ... Birdsong risks unlikability with her characters, allowing them selfishness, rage, violence, helplessness and mistakes large and small. As a result, they feel as idiosyncratic, unpredictable and real as people from life, speaking in voices that are melodic and utterly specific. The magic here is not the supernatural kind, but rather an attention to the grace of the ordinary. It is the magic of watching these women come into their power.
Every single person in this book has an understandable — though not always laudable — desire ... Even when, like Agnes, the characters mess up, we’re right there with them, understanding their motivation. Birdsong’s prose sings with a poet’s sensibility, so each story is carried along with pitch-perfect rhythm and nuanced understanding of human foibles. In the end, Agnes, Suzette and Maple are true to themselves, stepping into their own power and defying predictable solutions.
... a masterfully crafted and sometimes painfully honest story ... This unusual novel is built on spaciousness and silence, with each section reading almost like a novella ... These are dynamic characters, each with her own distinct narrative voice and particular way of looking at the world ... Each section is bound to the others through themes of Black womanhood, familial expectations, grief and the power of self-determination, but instead of drawing straightforward conclusions about these connections, Birdsong leaves the reader to meditate on the questions and ideas she raises ... Buried in these pages are infinite conversations—about what it means to be labeled 'other,' to be a part of a community, to choose something for yourself ... worth reading simply to spend time with these women, but the thoughtful and unexpected way that Birdsong combines their three unique stories into one is what makes the book unforgettable.