Book Review: Waters of the River Red by Susane Lavallais Boykins

As an avid reader, I’m always on the lookout for books that speak to my soul, my spirit, my heart and my mind. I found all those connections in Waters of the River Red by Susane Lavallais Boykins.

February is Black History Month and tucked away nicely on the 14th of the month is Valentine’s Day. Waters of the River Red came to my attention late last week and I couldn’t have asked for a better book to pay tribute to both the subject of Black History and Valentine’s Day, the day of love. This book touches on every emotion from the pain of unrequited love to suppressed anger that threatens to overtake common sense and everything in between. We’re given access to a true love story while we’re also exposed to tragedy, shame, and misdirected hatred. Let me tell you a little about it.

Loss and Heartache

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Photo Credit: EngineerGirl

The story opens in Marksville, Louisiana, during a somber time in the life of the main character, Charlotte Ford. It’s August 1960 and she has just lost her best friend, KeyKey, to cancer. Immediately, we’re able to identify with Charlotte, because unfortunately, I think we’ve all been affected by the evil that is cancer. During this period of mourning, we’re introduced to Charlotte’s staunchest source of support and strength, her mother, Josephine (affectionally known as Feen), who is so reminiscent of the strong Black woman whose primary attention is to her family, especially her children. While Charlotte is an elementary school teacher, her mother, continues to work as a maid. Feen made certain that her girls received an education in order that they lived easier lives than she did.

One thing that Feen is not able to shield Charlotte from, though, is the same thing that any other parent seeks to block from a child’s life and that’s the pain of a broken heart. As hard as her mother tried, she wasn’t able to stop Charlotte from delving into a relationship that spelled trouble from the start. As a grown woman, Charlotte knew better than to take a bite of that forbidden fruit but she did it anyway. She paid the price for falling in love with a married man. Most certainly, things got worse before they got better.

One of the things I liked most about this book is that the author allowed the characters to be real. They made mistakes just like everyday people. None of them went without paying the consequences and that’s what makes this book worth the read.

Secrets and More Secrets

Charlotte finds herself in a position that would have caused her tremendous shame in that day and age for more than one reason. She was blessed, however, to be surrounded by people who genuinely loved her and were willing to go the extra mile for her. This book provides an excellent example of what unconditional love looks like.

If you don’t know what strength looks like in the human form, you will see it in Josephine Ford. Her resilience and refusal to stop living in the face of adversity are what real women are made of. She holds a secret that is excruciatingly heartbreaking. Her’s is a story that must be read.

You’ll see what sacrifice looks like in the character, Adrian Fonteneau. He is a man’s man.

You’ll see what it means to be willing to let go in order to live the life you want to live in Lucien Ford, Charlotte’s father.

You’ll see what it means to hold on to secrets that burn the very soul in order to spare the feelings of the ones you love.

The Pain and Release

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As a very outspoken advocate against domestic violence/abuse, this book touched my core. Laura is Charlotte’s older sister and the author shines the spotlight on the fear that many domestic violence/abuse victims feel. She also shows us the courage it takes to finally get out. Ms. Boykins does an excellent job in the delivery of the fact that the victim is not at fault in cases of violence and shows just how badly things can go.

Peace, At Last

I can’t recommend this book enough. It not only flashes back to give the reader a little history of the lives of Blacks in the 1960s south, we’re also given a clear picture of a woman’s ability to stand strong in the face of controversy.

Head over to Amazon and get your copy today! You won’t regret it.

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