Sunday, August 23, 2020
#IReadsYou Book Review: ON THE CORNER OF HOPE AND MAIN
[This review was originally posted on Patreon.]
AUTHOR: Beverly Jenkins – @authorMsBev
ISBN: 978-0-06-269928-2; paperback (March 3, 2020)
304pp, B&W, $15.99 U.S., $19.99 CAN
[On the Corner of Hope and Main is available in a trade paperback edition and a “hardcover library edition.” This review is of the paperback.]
On the Corner of Hope and Main is a new novel from bestselling author, Beverly Jenkins. This is the tenth novel in Jenkins' “Blessings” series (following 2018's Second Time Sweeter). Set in the fictional small town of Henry Adams, Kansas, the book follows the lives of its citizens who never know a dull moment in their historic little town. On the Corner of Hope and Main finds Henry Adams caught up in a mayoral election, while a former trickster returns with new tricks.
On the Corner of Hope and Main opens with Trent July, mayor of Henry Adams for the past four years, ready to stop being mayor, so it's time for a new mayoral election! Right from the beginning, two slightly unsavory candidates throw their hats into the ring, including the town's perennial pariah, Riley Curry. Barrett Payne, a former Marine who directs the town's security infrastructure, decides he wants the job. When a surprise candidate also enters the ring, however, Barrett is shocked, offended, and thrown for that proverbial old loop that shakes him down to the core of his being.
While the town has opinions on who would be the best candidate, Leo Brown, the ex-husband of Henry Adams' owner and savior, Bernadine Brown, is back in town... with a new scheme. He hopes to make inroads with his new employer, Mega Seed; gain some closure with his former employer, Salem Oil; and get a measure of revenge against his ex.
The election and Leo Brown's schemes are not the only drama in town. Malachi “Mal” July continues to make reparations for the damage he has caused and to the people he has betrayed, but his biggest reclamation project will be restoring some kind of relationship with the love of his life, Bernadine. Is she finally ready to forgive him and let the past go? It will be a blessing if she does.
THE LOWDOWN: I had heard of author Beverly Jenkins, but had never read her work until I read her 2016 novel, Stepping to a New Day (the seventh “Blessings” novel). I immediately fell in love with the characters and with the town of Henry Adams, the kind of small town that Norman Rockwell or Walt Disney could have loved. Unlike a Disney small town idyll, however, Henry Adams has a diverse, but predominately African-American population and was founded by freed slaves.
On the Corner of Hope and Main is the fifth Blessings novel that I have read. I've read the previous three novels, and last year, I went back and read the first book in the series, Bring on the Blessings. Although On the Corner of Hope and Main has a few dark moments, it is radiant, hopeful, and positive, a sharp contrast to 2018's Second Time Sweeter, which I found to be a very dark, but hugely enjoyable read. I think the new novel also encapsulates author Beverly Jenkins' theme of “blessings.”
Jenkins' characters in this series can work toward, gain, and find blessings if they deal honestly with other people and especially with themselves. In the “Blessings” series, a blessing isn't just getting some material satisfaction, nor is it always manifested physically. A blessing can be spiritual and mental, or it can be a personal enrichment that comes indirectly to a character when his or her family, friends, co-workers, etc. directly get a blessing.
Invariably, characters who embrace wickedness and selfishness and those who trade in hubris win curses instead of blessings, sometimes with devastating, even tragic consequences. When one cannot love others as one loves oneself, what seems like a blessing will eventually turn out to be a disaster... or even a curse.
The struggle between getting what you want with good intentions and getting what you want at the expense of others is a winning formula for storytelling. That is because the struggle is played out by the vibrant characters that Beverly Jenkins creates. The good, the naughty, and the just-plain-bad are the kind of great characters that everyone says a successful novel needs. There are no duplicate characters in Jenkins' “Blessings” novels. Each character is unique, and no matter where he or she measures on the hero-villain or protagonist-antagonist scale, you will love reading about that character even when you can't exactly love the character. These characters have literary depth and weight because Jenkins has fitted them (each and every one) with wants, needs, fears, and motivations.
On the Corner of Hope and Main exemplifies that. I wanted to know more about what was happening in the lives of every character and player, even the ones that only appeared in a scene or two. There may be no better small town in modern fiction than Henry Adams, Kansas. If you need a good book to get you through this crazy time, you will find it On the Corner of Hope and Main.
I READS YOU RECOMMENDS: Fans of Beverly Jenkins and of stories set in wonderful small towns will want On the Corner of Hope and Main.
10 out of 10
The paperback edition of On the Corner of Hope and Main contains the following William Morrow “P.S. Insights, Interviews & More...” extras:
1. About the author: “Meet Beverly Jenkins”
2. About the book: “Author's Note” and “Book Club Discussion”
Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux a.k.a. "I Reads You"
The text is copyright © 2020 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this blog or site for reprint and syndication rights and fees.