Mary B. Addison killed a baby.
Allegedly. She didn’t say much in that first interview with detectives, and the media filled in the only blanks that mattered: A white baby had died while under the care of a church-going black woman and her nine-year-old daughter. The public convicted Mary and the jury made it official. But did she do it? She wouldn’t say.
Mary survived six years in baby jail before being dumped in a group home. The house isn’t really “home”—no place where you fear for your life can be considered a home. Home is Ted, who she meets on assignment at a nursing home.
There wasn’t a point to setting the record straight before, but now she’s got Ted—and their unborn child—to think about. When the state threatens to take her baby, Mary must find the voice to fight her past. And her fate lies in the hands of the one person she distrusts the most: her Momma. No one knows the real Momma. But who really knows the real Mary?
In this gritty and haunting debut, Tiffany D. Jackson explores the grey areas in our understanding of justice, family, and truth, and acknowledges the light and darkness alive in all of us.
Rating: 5 Stars
It is rare that I come across a book that keeps me up until all hours reading it. Not many have the flair in the writing, the gripping story telling, necessary for such a thing. This debut had these qualities and more, not to mention twists that will keep you thinking about it for long after you’ve finished reading.
Tiffany D. Jackson’s writing style was very easy too read. It was fluid and didn’t have many trip up moments. The only part that I had a faint bit of trouble was when Ms. Claire, a woman who teaches SAT prep courses, spoke as her accent was written into her speech. While the exact country was not stated, the book mentioned she was from an island, which I took to mean Caribbean. I think that it gave some authenticity to her character, though I had to adjustment my thinking to account for it as I don’t read many books that include this.
The events of the book were a mix of horrifying of none too surprising. The residents of the halfway house where Mary is living all have their own demons. While some were presented as unsympathetic characters from the offset, some even quite terrible, there were moments when the author offered us glimpses of who they are beneath their convictions and made me feel for them. There are moments afterwards that feel like betrayal because new information comes to life, but this adds to the potency of the book and the soul shaking of it.
My favorite and yet most conflicting part of the book is the ending. All through the novel I expected one thing. Granted I didn’t think that Mary was going to get it, what with the justice system, racism, prejudice, etc. all stacked against her, but it was still there in my head. What the author did in the last chapter had my jaw dropping and my brain near melting down because I couldn’t comprehend it at first.
I believe this book deserves discussion, not only for it’s portrayal of children convicted of crimes, particularly children of color, but for the events that Mary is subjected to that stem from her childhood and her own mother’s mental illness. There are many directions to go with this book, making it an excellent choice for a book club.