... one of those fictional characters so three-dimensionally rendered that it’s easy for a reader to slip into their expensive shoes and wander through a world more realistic than reality ... Solomon has a way of taking class lines that are often invisible and turning them into one of those laser museum security systems that you see in heist movies: neon, treacherous, uncrossable ... Liselle’s call to Selena happens in the first few pages of the book, just before dinner begins, which is to say that we meet our protagonist at the precise moment her Potemkin life becomes intolerable. What exactly the gesture triggers is revealed over the course of a novel so concise it reminded me of one of those wrinkle-free travel dresses that magically expand from a folded cube into a wearable garment. Solomon’s novel is a feat of engineering. It’s also a reverie, a riff on Mrs. Dalloway and a love story. In Liselle, Solomon has invented a character who comes to the mind’s eye in HD, with anxieties, jokes, memories, furies and survival instincts all present in prose as clear as water.
Solomon uses a fraught mother-daughter phone conversation to deftly set up the conflicts to come ... Having piqued our curiosity, Solomon whisks us to preparations for the dinner party, tipping her hat to Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway as she anatomizes the discomfiting class and racial distinctions ... a present-day forum for Solomon’s witty depiction of a racially mixed, decidedly well-to-do group’s freighted social interactions in the still hopeful days of Barack Obama’s second term ... In these poignant yet often bitingly funny chapters, Solomon affirms her descent from the African American foremothers who claimed the Black female experience as their literary turf in the second half of the 20th century ... Liselle is an appealing, believably imperfect protagonist, intelligent and perceptive yet apparently unable to extricate herself from a life she no longer really wants. Seen through her eyes, the dinner party guests and other subsidiary characters...are vividly drawn with economical brushstrokes. But Winn is not as fully fleshed-out as his role in the novel requires, and the excavation of Selena’s past comes jarringly late in the narrative, keeping her an enigma for too long and blunting the impact of Liselle and Winn’s climactic confrontation. Solomon has crafted a good novel about the racial and social complexities of American life, observed in shrewd detail. If this gifted writer had allowed her material more room to breathe, and herself more time to develop it, The Days of Afrekete would have been even better.
The Days of Afrekete...intertwines a biting satire of upper-middle-class mores with a wistful love story ... Ms. Solomon lands some excellent blows in her depiction of the personalities and posturing that fill the dinner party ... The flashbacks with Selena, which are briskly recapped rather than fully dramatized, lack the same vividness, creating an ironic imbalance, since the novel means to champion the challenging, heterodox life Liselle and Selena might have dared to make together above the conventional one Liselle settled for. Ms. Solomon brings the novel to a climactic reunion scene that is sweet but frustrating—it is here, at the book’s conclusion, that I was most eager to discover what might happen next.