Sunday, May 16, 2010

My take on: Quicksand

Romance novels are foreign territory for me, but in the short time since I've entered the blogging world I knew I would have to step outside my comfort zone at some point. One can't survive on a diet of literary fiction and memoirs alone.

"Quicksand: An Interracial Love Story," tells the story of the widowed Natalie Broom, a white woman, and Randy, a complicated black man. Two years removed from the death of her husband, 63-year-old Natalie is struggling to get her life back together. Her husband's death from cancer took a toll on her emotionally and physically. She tries to focus on her career writing and illustrating children's books. Soon she is ready to find love again. Natalie decides to give online dating a try, and after weeding out the crazies she starts communication with Randy, a divorced father of three who is also 11 years her junior. This relationship is all new to her, and as she puts it "had never corresponded with a black man before let alone dated anyone of that race."

Lettters and phone calls soon lead to the inevitable first meeting. Natalie pays for Randy to fly from Orlando to her home just outside of Seattle. She shares the stories of her previous bouts of alcoholism and childhood sexual abuse. Randy tells her what it was like to live in Tennessee during the '60s and 70s. This all leads to walks, dinners, playful outings and vacations together. It sounds like sunshine and roses, but at seemingly every turn this couple is met with racism. There are stares from strangers, rejection from neighbors and people she thought were friends. Natalie's own family is against the relationship. While Natalie knows she is totally in love with Randy, their relationship is not perfect. Natalie detests paying for everything. Randy has shown he can be sweet, but can also have violent bursts of anger. Despite all this, Natalie can't bring herself to fully break free from Randy.

Randall begins each chapter with a poem. With each subsequent poem, you get a sense of the euphoria and at times anguish that Natalie is feeling. The subject seemed very interesting to me at first, but I felt the presentation was uneven. Some aspects of the book are clearly modeled after Randall herself. Randall also lost her husband to cancer, was an alcoholic and was sexually abused as a child. The entire book feels more like a diary, than a novel. Up until the ending, everything is told from Natalie's perspective. There is nothing wrong with that, but the novel is mainly composed of narrative passages and poetry. The quotes are few and far between. As a reader, I was craving more character interaction rather than Natalie telling us what happened. The reaction to the couple's interracial relationship also seems a little contrived. Interracial couples do face bigotry, but the way it is presented in the novel just seems off. From Natalie's perspective just about everyone is against them. Without giving too much away, the ending came out of left field for me. I ended up feeling sad for Natalie and Randy.

Randall is also accomplished writer and illustrator of children's books, but this is her first foray into writing fiction. For more information on Marilyn Randall visit http://www.marilynrandall.com/index.htm

Note: I received a copy of the book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

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