Jump at the Sun, Kim McLarin

I loved Jump at the Sun.  I feel like I’ve loved all the books I’ve read lately, but I just looked at my past few reviews, and no, it hasn’t been that way.  I just loved The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox so much it feels like it was a bunch of books; plus, I’ve been reading Jump at the Sun for several days and loving it.  I didn’t expect to love it, because I try to steer clear of books about people being miserable and bored with their suburban families and their suburban lives.  However, it is only April, and already this year I have read two books of this sort, and liked both of them quite a lot.  It’s all about themes.  I am interested (when I am writing stories) in how people find ways to be free within the constraints their lives give them – and that’s what this is about.  Revolutionary Road too.

Jump at the Sun is all about a woman called Grace, who is a stay-at-home mother; and it’s about her grandmother Rae, who was born a sharecropper and abandoned her children to live her own life; and it’s about her mother, Mattie, who sacrifices her own life to ensure that she will never, never, never, never abandon her own children.

As well as being well-written, this book was fascinating to me, the way it dealt with the dichotomy of freedom and constraint.  The book makes a thing of how people are not good at figuring out how their personal lives fit in the broader context of what is happening in the country and the world.  So each successive generation – Rae, then Mattie, then Grace – can enjoy more freedom than the one before, in the context of rights given to black people in America; but on a personal level, that’s not how it works out.  It’s a book about what to do with the freedom you’ve fought for.

(Something about which I know nothing at all, of course, having no children.)

Here is something that did my head in:

Saying my mother – saying black folks in general – didn’t like to talk about slavery was like saying she didn’t like to talk about her period.  Slavery was just that common, that omnipresent, and that hidden away.  I could count on one hand the number of times I’d heard the issue discussed with anything more than a passing remark…. Having a slave in the family was like having a daily bowel movement – everybody had them, but they were nasty and shameful and why in the world would you want to have it discussed?

I had to go back and read that several times.  Was that true, back in the day?  (I’m assuming the author wouldn’t have written it if it weren’t ever true.)  Because that’s really awful.  We are such a messed-up country.

Apart from that – although that really bothered me – my joy in this book was unalloyed.  I read it slowly to make it last, even though I knew there was a memoir downstairs about a kid whose father was a faith healer.  (In other news, I am about to read a memoir about a kid whose father was a faith healer.  !!!!!)  I can’t wait to read more books by this author, which I hope don’t let me down.

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