Cover Image: On the Rooftop

On the Rooftop

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Member Reviews

A bittersweet book about a mother and her three daughters who have all come to a turning point in their lives.  Vivian has done everything she can to help her daughters achieve success as a singing trio.  Now, on the cusp of that success, it all starts to crumble.  They are also facing the possibility of gentrification of their 50's San Francisco neighborhood.  

This was an elegantly written story, my only complaint is that it was a little slow moving at times.

Thank you Netgalley and Ecco for the ARC!
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I wasn’t sure about this one at first, but I ended up loving it! A bittersweet #familydrama meets #historicalfiction at its best. A solid pick from @reesesbookclub. 

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Three African American sisters and their ambitious mother growing up in 1950s California have almost cinched a sure fire path to stardom and success in the music industry after pouring their blood, sweat, and tears into their musical trio for the entirety of the girls’ lives. 

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All three women face turning points on the brink of success that will crumble the decades long effort of their strong willed mother, with one sister battling the choice of family versus dreams, kitchen versus stage, another fighting on the streets as their neighborhood faces imminent redevelopment, and another finding her calling on the stage, as she struggles with the harsh realities of racial lines when she falls for a man whose skin happens to be a different color than her own. 

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Absolutely phenomenal - this one will have you wanting to pour a drink, dance, sit in front of a stage, and hug your loved ones close, despite their flaws.
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I know this book is meeting with a great deal of critical acclaim, but for me, it was underwhelming. It's the story of a mother with big dreams of showbiz for her three daughters. It seems to stem from feelings of overcompensation and wanting to escape the bleak normalcy of her race in 50's San Francisco. That I can completely understand. This book is so insanely slow going, while at the same time lacking depth of relationships, that I just couldn't love it. 
This is billed as being "inspired" by Fiddler on the Roof....but it's more like a retelling. Unfortunately that means that you kinda know what is coming as you read, and with such a slow read, you're robbed of any upcoming surprises. This book is just fine, but it wasn't anything remarkable to me, and I feel like the message is available in better written books out there, that aren't retellings.
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I wouldn’t call this historical fiction, per se, however it does borrow some of my favorite elements of the genre by setting a stage that calls the reader into a specific time and place. I enjoyed this telling of Harlem and the black women living, working and entertaining through artistry during a time when Jim Crow impacted both the north and south. I’ve not read anything by this author previously, and will look for more of their books,
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ON THE ROOFTOP is a coming-of-age story of three sisters whose mother has long held dreams of musical stardom, set in a tight-knit neighborhood in 1950s San Francisco. 

The heart of the novel is this four-person family; perspective trades between them. While each of them has their own story arc, it ultimately feels like a book more focused on characterization than action. And the focus is very much on these women and their relationships, with the men all in minor roles. 

The sisters comprise a musical trio known as The Salvations but also have individual hopes and wants that inevitably chafe against what their mother Vivian wants for them. But Vivian is less domineering stage mom and more Black mother wanting security for her daughters. The sisters' coming of age is set against the backdrop of a gentrifying SF, presenting another level of change. 

Margaret Wilkerson Sexton's inspiration was Fiddler on the Roof, which makes a lot of sense in retrospect, but I didn't know that going in so can't really say how'd that shape the reading experience. I enjoyed the narration by Robin Miles, though Sexton's writing is such that the text is a treat too.
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There is so much to explore in this book. The setting, the show biz, the racial aspect just all comes together to tell an unforgettable story. Ecco books are one of the best publishing companies out right now. Their ability to put new voices out into the world is incredible. I have never trusted a publisher more. This book is a perfect example of that.
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I absolutely loved this. Thank you netgalley & the publisher for the ARC, in exchange for an honest review.
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This book was more like humming a tune than the power ballad I was expecting. I enjoyed being immersed in the neighborhood of Fillmore in the 1950s, and the characters felt true and not tropes. Just something about the story didn't grab me. Finished the book, just wasn't engaged.
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I'm so happy this book got picked up by a celebrity book club because it deserves so much attention. This was unique, fun, and had a deep and compelling message at the same time. A rarity in a book, and in my opinion, the perfect recipe.
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I listened to On the Rooftop by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton on audio on two separate road-trips. I’m new to the concept of an audiobook on the road (I’m loyal to my podcast rotation), but liked the idea of immersing myself in the headspace of one single story for 2+ hours and, after an excellent audio experience with I’m Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy, I was excited to continue the new personal trend.

The story of three sisters in 1950s gentrifying San Francisco (and their behind the scenes ambitious mother) grappling with the concept of making it as a girl group a la The Supremes sounded fun and interesting, but I found myself consistently tuning out and having to rewind only to tune out *again* until finally I just gave up. At first, I thought this was potentially an attention span issue on my end, but have since received validation from others that this title is, unfortunately, simply kind of boring.

That being said, the narrator Robin Miles, had a beautiful, captivating voice and told the story as gorgeously as possible, so much so that I really attempted to power through and finish, but ultimately didn’t because the plot and character development just felt like it had been done before (and better) by others 🫣.
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I loved ON THE ROOFTOP and count it among my favorite books of 2022. Sexton's writing is elegant and seamless; the narrative flows beautifully as we get to know these characters. Sexton takes us deep into the inner lives of Vivian and her 3 daughters. Their competing desires and hidden secrets add suspense and tension to the story. There's also a strong sense of place and history.

Highly recommended for fans of character-driven literary fiction. 

I look forward to catching up on this author's backlist. What an amazing talent.
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This is a wonderful story about a mother and her daughters, a Black community in this time period, and different people's dreams and expectations. I enjoyed the writing and the story of this one. I had not read any of the author's previous books before. I love the way Margaret Wilkerson Sexton captured the different characters' viewpoints. Here is a mother who has dreams and goals for her children, whom she loves, and then the daughters begin to have other feelings and ideas about what they want and need in their lives. For me, though the time period and background of the characters was different than my own, I found the feelings and the story highly relatable -- because I have struggled with having goals and needs that are different than what my family thought of for me. But the magic in this book is in how the author captures all of the perspectives so well. So glad I read this one!'
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I was very excited to read this book initially. I love books about music or music groups. And I really love books focusing on mother-daughter relationships. As excited as I was to read this book, I was equally disappointed once I read it. This book did not hit the mark with me.

Here are a few of my issues - To start off with, I didn't connect with any of the characters. Now, that's okay, you don't necessarily have to connect with the characters for a story to be good (although it does help...). I really didn't like the mother figure Vivian. As a mother, I struggled with some of her decisions, actions and ways she treated her daughters. While I understand this story is a struggle between her daughters dreams versus her dreams for them, I just didn't feel any motherly love or support from her. (Again, this is just my interpretation of the story). The preacher is a pretty dominant character in this book. He makes some decisions that are expected to be accepted as okay and normal that I feel sheds a negative light on religious leaders. (Again, this is just my interpretation of the story).
The story is written in what is supposed to be the dialect of that time frame, and this was difficult to read and follow at times. It honestly got frustrating at times for me. And lastly, the storyline itself didn't grab and hold my attention. I very easily could have put this book down and not finish it, but I did finish it. It's not a memorable book.

While this book didn't land right for me, I know it has been a great book for others.

My thanks to the author, Ecco Publishing and Netgalley for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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I was so excited to read this when I saw that it was Reese Witherspoons pick. However, I was very underwhelmed by the book - it was ok but it did not hold my attention well. The story was a bit slow and there were times I considered not finishing . There were glimpses of really good parks that hooked my attention, though which kept me reading. I enjoyed the author's writing style - it invoked the style and culture of that time period in San Francisco. 

Thank you to Ecco and NetGalley for allowing me to read and review this ARC
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Margaret Wilkerson Sexton has written a warm, bittersweet story of music, family, and resistance. In an homage to "Fiddler on the Roof," Ms. Wilkerson Sexton has placed her characters and plot in post-WWII San Francisco’s Fillmore District, where each family member’s story unfolds against the threat of forced eviction of the entire neighborhood through the city’s assertion of their right of eminent domain.

Vivian, a Louisiana native, is a widow and mother to Ruth, Esther, and Chloe, all in their twenties. While Vivian’s dream for her daughters is fame, fortune, and most importantly, safety, as a girl group, she soon learns that each of her girls is called to express her own song. Set against the looming threat of redevelopment, these dramas play out quietly – but the love among family, friends, and neighbors is anything but quiet; it’s exuberant, like the music and the prose, which sings.

You won’t regret the time spent reading this rich piece of historical fiction. Consider educating yourself about the history of the Fillmore District, including the effect of “redevelopment” on the African Americans who were displaced, before reading the book for an informed reading experience; this reviewer found first-hand accounts on foundsf.org, a digital archive of material about San Francisco’s history.

Thank you to NetGalley and HarperCollins for the ARC I used to write this honest review.
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While there was a lot going on in this book (gentrification, racism, sexism), everything took a secondary position to the relationships between Vivian and her daughters. Vivian had big dreams of musical success for them while they were each coming in to their own ideas of what success meant for them. Set in an unsettled period of time in San Francisco, there was a lot of noise trying to drown out this central plot but I felt the book did a great job of incorporating the issues while still keeping it in the background. In this way the reader is able to focus on the daughters as they struggle with their own dreams and the impacts they had on each other and their mother. I especially applaud the realistic ending that didn't provide a rose tinted look at what frequently happened. For some this fictional book can be a starting to point to a deeper look at the impact of the decisions we allow to be made.
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Loved this story from the very beginning.  Based in 1950's San Francisco, in the historically black Filmore District, I personally loved all how Margaret really brought the neighborhood to life through her writing.  A personal sidetone about me... I lived in SF not to far from this area for a few years during college, but of course quite a few decades later, so I could still picture the area and truly visualizing it throughout the book, which is always nice to have the personal reference.  

The store centers around Vivian and her three Daughters. Vivian is a mother who has BIG dreams for her daughters.  Each chapter switches back between the mother and the three daughters different perspectives.  I found the mother / daughter relationships very interesting and could relate to some parts and as a mother now myself I could understand some of the moms perspective too. If you love getting lost in the world of historical fiction, particularly the 1950's dealing with racial tensions, segregation, mother/daughter relationships, connected through a musical thread, then "On the Rooftop" is for you.
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On the Rooftop by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton is a highly recommended historical fiction novel set in the 1950s.

In 1953 the changing Black San Francisco neighborhood, Vivian's three daughters, Ruth, Esther, and Chloe have been singing and dancing in harmony since they could speak. Vivian's husband has passed away, and she dreams of her three girls reaching stardom. On stage, the three girls are known as The Salvations. Now in their 20's, they are becoming well known, especially due to their weekly appearances at the Champagne Supper Club, and a talent manager has contacted Vivian hoping to help them reach the pinnacle of success. However, things are changing, both in the lives of the girls and the neighborhood.

The writing is a descriptive delight in this novel and it depicts both the good and the bad of the many events the family goes through. Chapters are from the point of view of Vivian, Ruth, Esther, or Chloe. Readers can follow Vivian's dreams for her girls and the plans the girls have for their own lives. Also detailed are the changes occurring in the neighborhood. Complex relationships reign in this novel, and they are what makes the narrative interesting, with the relationship between the mother and her daughters a main depiction.

The descriptions of the mother and sisters are all clearly delineated and each character represents an individual with dreams of her own. The experiences of the sisters are removed from those pf the mother, yet the mother's experiences ultimately effect the daughters too, although with  a modicum of restraint.

Normally historical fiction isn't a choice of mine, but this novel represents an excellent choice for anyone who understands the dreams a mother may have for her children and then the alternate paths the children take. On the Rooftop by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton was inspired by Fiddler on the Roof, and that comparison is apropos.
Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of HarperCollins via NetGalley.
The review will be published on Barnes & Noble, Google Books, Edelweiss, and Amazon.
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I wanted to love this book. Margaret Wilkerson Sexton’s writing is beautiful and I enjoyed the relationship between Vivian and her three daughters, but the story itself felt very slow and I could not get engaged. Those who enjoy character-driven historical fiction should give this one a try, but it wasn’t for me. 

Thank you to Ecco and NetGalley for this ARC.
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This one has a pretty slow start, but by the second half of the book I found myself rooting for all of the characters. While the pacing and tone are a little uneven throughout, Margaret Wilkerson Sexton does a good job of creating strong characters and an immersive setting. I'll be interested to see the direction she takes in future novels.
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