Memphis came out of the 7th of April and is a debut novel by Tara M. Stringfellow. It’s about the lives of 5 black women as they live in home, built with a great deal of love, in Memphis.
Book Review for Memphis by Tara M. Stringfellow
“As my mother helped undress me with a gentleness that only increased my fear, I understood then why the first sin on this earth had been a murder. Among kin.”
Memphis is an absolutely wonderful book! It’s told from the point of view of four women and how they work to protect each other and their family from the violence of Memphis.
The story starts with Miriam moving back to her home in Memphis to live with her sister, August, and her son, after Jax, her army husband takes his anger out on her in front of their children.
It’s early on that we realize that Joan (Miriam’s older daughter) was assaulted by her cousin at the age of 3. While action against Derek was taken at that point, it doesn’t make it better for Joan that they now need to live in the same home.
Honestly, one wouldn’t be able to tell that this was a debut novel. Tara M. Stringfellow put together a beautiful book on how complicated family can be. This is not to say that Derek is ever forgiven by his mother or family, but the entire situation makes you feel really incredibly helpless. As family what do you do?
Joan is also an incredibly talented artist, while My, as they can all tell, will make a great doctor. We also watch the way Miriam and Joan clash as Joan wants to pursue art and Miriam wants her to do something that might be a bit more stable.
Joan can’t change her family’s past.
But she can create her future.
Joan was only a child the last time she visited Memphis. She doesn’t remember the bustle of Beale Street on a summer’s night. She doesn’t know she’s as likely to hear a gunshot ring out as the sound of children playing. How the smell of honeysuckle is almost overwhelming as she climbs the porch steps to the house where her mother grew up. But when the front door opens, she does remember Derek.
This house full of history is home to the women of the North family. They are no strangers to adversity; resilience runs in their blood. Fifty years ago, Hazel’s husband was lynched by his all-white police squad, yet she made a life for herself and her daughters in the majestic house he built for them. August lives there still, running a salon where the neighbourhood women gather. And now this house is the only place Joan has left. It is in sketching portraits of the women in her life, her aunt and her mother, the women who come to have their hair done, the women who come to chat and gossip, that Joan begins laughing again, begins living.
Memphis is a celebration of the enduring strength of female bonds, of what we pass down, from mother to daughter. Epic in scope yet intimate in detail, it is a vivid portrait of three generations of a Southern black family, as well as an ode to the city they call home.