“The best time to start was yesterday...”
I believe that had I read Margaret Wilkerson Sexton's debut novel ten years ago—even five—I would've been ecstatic, in love. There's so much weight to this book, and with its finely drawn characters, A Kind of Freedom demands attention. It is a wonderful, multi-generational story. Each generation lives amongst devastation and beauty. Each generation gives voice to hope and resignation. And through the eyes of each generation, we see a city rise and fall.
Sexton's writing here reminds me most of Gloria Naylor's. A Kind of Freedom is an intense story of dreams deferred by discrimination and poverty. Sexton's vivid depiction addresses many social issues that together weave a tapestry of injustice. She delves into the psychology of this family and the city. Yet, like Naylor's stories, A Kind of Freedom does not lose sight of the story at the center of the novel. Add to this Sexton's stunning portrait of New Orleans; the setting may be considered an additional character.
“...the next best time is now.”
While I greatly enjoyed A Kind of Freedom, I didn't fall in love. And this is merely, or so I believe, because I hadn't read it sooner in life. The story has many qualities I love, but it doesn't surprise me, not does it capture my heart the same way other similar stories have. I think this may have most to do with characters who were not developed as fully as they could've been. Evelyn, Jackie, and T.C. are all great characters, but I know that I could've spent more time in the mind of each. That said, T.C. was nearly perfect and he was certainly the most unforgettable of the three. With the others, I felt more like an observer to their trials, but with T.C. I was there, inside.
A Kind of Freedom is a good novel that I think could've been made stronger with another hundred pages to flesh out some of these characters. New Orleans and T.C. are both very compelling, but there's something missing from the rest of the story that kept me distant. That something may be a generational connection (T.C. is my closest contemporary), but I think it has more to do with really delving into the soul of these characters. Keep in mind that I'm a very character-driven reader and that I place great emphasis on character development. As far as plot, A Kind of Freedom is a very tightly and neatly written story. Most readers looking for a captivating and insightful story will be greatly pleased with this one