Family is something that you have to accept since you can’t really change who you’re related to. But sometimes, you can find family in the most interesting places, as in Suzanne Feldman’s Absalom’s Daughters.
In rural Mississippi, Cassie works with her mother and grandmother in the laundry. Cassie’s light brown skin is part of her grandmother’s life-long plan to generate a family line that could pass as white. Living in the same town is Judith, an illiterate white girl whose father has a history of philandering, with Cassie as evidence of this, and is keen on making an easy living. When Cassie and Judith’s father suddenly leaves town, the half-sisters take off after him to try and get their share of the inheritance that their father would undoubtedly squander.
Cassie and Judith’s journey was entertaining and while not extraordinary or touching upon anything new, the story did a good job of depicting the racial climate in the American South in the 1950s. The magical realism aspect of the story was less prominent and bold than I had expected it to be and was more akin to the real, various beauty and cleaning products that promoted “whiteness.” While the writing was good, there wasn’t much emotional attachment or passion given to the characters or events in the novel, making it more difficult to connect to the narrative as it lacked much complexity for intrigue.
Overall, I’d give it a 3 out of 5 stars.