Cover Image: Grown Women

Grown Women

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Member Reviews

This powerful story will leave you thinking and reimagining each scene. Following four generations of black women, we learn about their ourney of being a mother and their trauma. The connection made between the pain and healing is an amazing journey!

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This debut novel by Sarai Johnson centers on four generations of Black Southern women. Masterfully descriptive and absorbing, the book plays with perspective while illustrating each woman’s hardships and resentments, as well as their dreams and joys. Johnson has written a portrait that is mature, compassionate and compelling. She speaks to modern women’s lives in a fresh and easy prose that is equally smooth and sharp. Among the recent books addressing intergenerational relationships and conflict, this one stands out.

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I´m in awe of how wonderful this novel is. I´m usually not one for long books (I know, lol) and I sometimes get lost when it comes to multi-generational family stories, but whew. Grown Women is so deft and devastating and stunning. My jaw dropped at 10% and the book continued to surprise and amaze me up until the last page, where the writer delivers a remark that will stay with me for a long, long time. This is a novel about generations of women who love and betray one another, who choose their daughters over their mothers even when they don´t know what mothering is, what it can and should (or shouldn´t) feel like, women who try to bandage wounds while their own flesh is still exposed, cuts deep down into the bone. It´s about race and class and education and mobility and it´s also about art and literature and sexual violence and economic violence and friendship and grief. Really the summary matters less to me for a recommendation because it´s simply one of the best books of the year and a book that cracked me open and made me think so deeply, looked at me so sharply, I consider it a must read in contemporary literature. It is that good and that special.

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I loved this book. It was a book I could not put down. Sometimes you read a book and you pick it up when you're bored or have nothing else to do but play on your phone otherwise, and sometimes you read a book every moment you can, you want to get back to it, you're excited to read it, but you don't want it to end either. That was my experience with this book. Grown Women follows four generations of Black women as they navigate issues of poverty and privilege, relationships with men, messy female friendships, and mother and daughterhood. This book is at its core about mothers, what it means to be a mother, what it means to love a child, and what, as a child, you owe (and don't owe) your mother. The relationships are sometimes messy, but at the novel's core, it tries to understand these women who are so very different from each other, and who love each other dearly. And the character of Camille, the final chapter in the story of these four women, is worth all the pain, all the struggle. The book rests on the fact that she is a well-drawn, complicated, but truly likable character, and the book succeeds in that.

I will say, that I'd give this book a 4.5. There were times when I wanted to understand a character's motivations a bit more. Why at the start of the book does Charlotte decide to keep her child? I thought we'd get an answer by the end because I couldn't understand the motivation at the beginning, but it never really came. Some things were perhaps supposed to be a mystery, but I figured them out three steps before they were revealed. (I don't want to give any examples because this book is not even out yet and I don't want to spoil anything). But many times when something was being withheld from the reader to create mystery and tension, I felt like I figured it out well before the reveal happened.

But, again, this was a book I did not want to put down. And I am so very, very sad I'm finished with it. I miss it already.

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