Pakersfield, Georgia, 1958: Thirteen-year-old Tangy Mae Quinn is the sixth of ten fatherless siblings. She is the darkest-skinned among them and therefore the ugliest in her mother, Rozelle’s, estimation, but she’s also the brightest. Rozelle–beautiful, charismatic, and light-skinned–exercises a violent hold over her children. Fearing abandonment, she pulls them from school at the age of twelve and sends them to earn their keep for the household, whether in domestic service, in the fields, or at “the farmhouse” on the edge of town, where Rozelle beds local men for money.
But Tangy Mae has been selected to be part of the first integrated class at a nearby white high school. She has a chance to change her life, but can she break from Rozelle’s grasp without ruinous–even fatal–consequences?
I knew that The Darkest Child by Delores Phillips would be a special book from the minute I turned the first page. The writing drew me in to the last page. The book took me to 1958 and into the lives of the Quinn’s family. The story is set in a small town, at a time when racial tensions were high although change was looming. Naturally, there was resistance especially from the white supremacists. Readers get to meet the Quinns, a black family struggling to survive the drama at home and prejudice in the town.
Although racism is one of the main themes in this story, it is not the only one. The Quinn family consists of single mother Rozelle and her ten children. Rozelle has never been married and her children all have different fathers. She is the cause of most of the drama and tension in her home. This lady is mean as hell and I disliked her. However, there are other sides to this woman which made it hard to completely judge her. I really sympathized with her children, especially Tangy Mae, her darkest child. You see, Rozie is a black woman but she is light skinned. She considers her light-skinned children beautiful but not Tangy Mae. It was easy to sympathize with Tangy Mae and also root for her especially in her quest to get educated and escape the crazy hold of her mother. My heart broke so many times because of her.
Prostitution is one of the themes in this book. The blurb hints at this but I still wasn’t prepared for its portrayal in the book. Don’t get me wrong, the book isn’t graphic. The author just drops hints that let you know what is happening without painting the picture. However, just knowing what was going on really turned my stomach. You need to read this book to understand why this theme was the most-heart wrenching part of the book despite all the prejudice that was going on.
I fell in love with this book and ended up getting through it in two sittings. It’s a powerful read with characters that forced their way into my mind and heart and claimed their spot. I can’t stop thinking about them. Some I really liked but others I totally disliked. The story was so moving and beautifully written. It reminded me of some of my favourite reads such as The Help and The Secret Lives of Bees. I do hope that this one too would be made into a movie.
The Darkest Child by Delores Phillips is a book that I recommend to everyone. I can’t remember the last time a book affected me this much. I was so angry at some point that I even wished death upon one of the characters. Yeah I know it is fictional but still… On the other hand, I wanted to take Tangy Mae from the story and just shield her. The ending was beautiful although it left me yearning for more. As you can probably tell by now, I really liked this book!
The Darkest Child is being released today by Soho Press so you can now buy your copy of this remarkable book.