allis reviews Maye’s Request by Clifford Henderson

When I read the summary for this book I was highly intrigued by this part “[Brianna] parents form a perfect triangle: Mom, Dad, and her mother’s lover—who also happens to be her Dad’s twin sister”. From this, I gathered that the story was going to be quite unusual and promised to be at least interesting if not good. I was a bit worried about that actually. The premise was so intriguing and unusual that I feared the story could turn out to be really bad. But, to my great pleasure, it has not been the case.

I really enjoyed the start of the novel. We follow the narrator Brianna (a.k.a. Bean) through her way back from Mexico to the USA, where she is going to meet back with her Aunt, Dad, and mom who has contacted a very rare possible fatal illness. The writing is smooth and easy to read. The voice of the narrator is really pleasant and natural. As we travel with Brianna, we slip back from thoughts to actions really easily, as if we were traveling with her, lost in thoughts with her, getting introduced to all the background information about her family we need from her thoughts. At no moment does it feels forced. It’s the natural process of loosing oneself into ones thoughts while traveling.

When we reach the point of meeting with her family, we discover that the story is actually divided in two parts. The present with all of the characters, and the past which focus on the twins. Throughout the rest of the novel we are constantly balancing between the present with Bean’s point of view of the situation, and flash-backs from the past of her dad and aunt. But again the transitions are smooth and natural, and we switch from one period to the other very easily. The change of narration and tense helps a lot and make things easier for the reader, making sure he doesn’t get confused about when he is in time. Thanks to those flash-backs we slowly understand why her family is acting the way it did and still does. Placing the reader as a witness through the eyes of Bean was a really good idea. We are just as confused as her about the situation and just as eager to understand.

Plus, Bean is funny and feels very real which makes it easy to identify with her. She is not only guiding the reader through the present, she also have a life of her own with full development. She is very easy to rely to and make it uncomplicated to connect with the novel very rapidly, diving in from the start and only getting out at the end.

Another thing I really appreciated about this novel is the fact that it’s exactly what the cover says. It’s a story about love, longing, and family. It is the story of how Maye, but particularly Jake and Jen learn to live with each other again and learn to understand their history and past better, to leave it behind and move forward. But this is also the story of Bean and how she got caught in the mess the adults in her life created and how she is trying not to repeat the same mistakes and accept love. Some of the characters happen to be lesbians (Jen, Maye – though she is more bisexual than lesbian, and Bean). But there is no emphasis on it, it’s not the centre of the novel of even the point of it. That’s just part of who the characters are, who they love. I really appreciated that fact.

All in all it was a really good read and I am now planning to read other books from the same author. I definitely recommend this book. Some of the subjects treated are dark, but the tone is always real with a touch of humour which makes it very enjoyable to read.