I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.
The author of PUSH (which was made into the critically-acclaimed movie "Precious") returns with a sequel following the life of Precious' son Abdul. The book begins when Abdul is nine-year-old and is attending his mother's funeral. Left alone by Precious' untimely death, Abdul is shuttled through the foster care system which fails him in unspeakable ways. As Abdul faces horrible abuse and his own unspeakable reactions to that abuse, he fights to carve out an identity and place for himself in the world. After overcoming terrible adversity and the truth of his family's past, Abdul ultimately finds some redemption in the most surprising of places.
One does not need to know Precious' story to appreciate Abdul's journey but it does help. Armed with the knowledge of what came before, the reader is able to know more than Abdul about his own family and past. Abdul's story is more complicated, however. While one is able to cheer for Precious in her journey from victim to empowered mother, Abdul is a much more complex character. His abuse turns him into an abuser in an unflinching picture of how the cycle of abuse can be so damaging and self-perpetuating. The reader must confront complex feelings about Abdul. The stream-of-consciousness style of this novel can be difficult although it is effective in demonstrating the complexity of Abdul's state of mind. He is a lost soul who struggles to find footing in the midst of abuse and confusion about who he really is.
More than anything, I think this book reveals the insidiousness of abuse and also the failure of the foster care system. After getting a more accurate picture of Abdul's family history, one can only marvel that ANYONE in that family is able to survive. The book is difficult and powerful and often frustrating. The narrative can be confusing at times and I was baffled by the ending of the book. However, there is no doubt that it is a powerful work that forces the reader to confront many difficult truths about the world that we live in and the failure of the system.
BOTTOM LINE: Recommended with reservations. This book is a very difficult read. Not only in its gritty content but also in terms of the stream-of-consciousness narrative style. However, I believe it is worth the effort. In this book, the reader gets a much better picture of how the history of a family brought it to this point and hints at the redemptive power of the arts and how the force of being loved....even for a short period of time....can have far-reaching effects on a person.