Johnny (and the Women Who Loved Him)
Format: Hardcover, 320pp.
Reviewed by Thumper, AALBC.com
"That's mighty pretty, precious"
The question, "Damn Thumper is using a term of endearment in the heading of a review. What's up with THAT?" should have arisen. I have no idea why I thought of that line when I finished reading Hot Johnny (And the Women Who Loved Him) by Sandra Jackson-Opoku. I have no idea where it came from. I'm not one to question my first mind. I also can't explain the inner-workings of my mind, nor am I about to try, but work with me anyway. *Smile* I can think of no other words that described how I felt when I completed Hot Johnny. Sandra Jackson-Opoku created quite a buzz with her first novel, The River Was Blood Is Born. I'm confident that lightning is about to strike in the same place twice for Hot Johnny (And the Women Who Loved Him) is a remarkable work of literature from a voice that I'm praying is here to stay.
Hot Johnny (And the Women Who Loved Him) is a novel that tells the life story of John the Baptist Wright, Hot Johnny. Johnny does not tell his story, the women that witnessed his life handles the narrative in this tale. We hear from his great grandmother Lita Gracita, to his half sister that raised him, Sister Baby Ruth, to his troubled wife Destiny, and Jonavis, the daughter he didn't know he had. Johnny comes face to face with all of the women of his past when a tragic occurrence happens in his present. Welcome to Hot Johnny's world, baby, it's a dozy.
You would think by now that I would learn not to entertain "first impressions" when it comes to books. I first thought that I was going to read about some Playa and all the women he had. That's only half true. Many of the women were Hot Johnny's ex lovers. The part that I wasn't banking on was hearing from the women that didn't love Johnny in the sexual or romantic sense. For example, there's an appearance by Johnny's high school counselor and a nurse that took care of his infant daughter. The women told a piece of Johnny's story, while at the same time, telling their stories.
The other impression I had was I knew for sure that I was headed for another version of Citizen Kane. I couldn't have been farther from the truth. While the women's main purpose was coloring the empty spaces of Johnny's life, they showed their own colors. A few with colors more vibrant than Johnny's. There's Lady Peaches, the prostitute that took a young Johnny in after he saved her from a beating. Lady Peaches is a book unto herself! Oh, I enjoyed her. That's the beauty of Hot Johnny, although Johnny is the principal of the book, the novel really isn't about him. It's about women of all walks of life, from the church-house to the whorehouse, at different stages in their lives. The age span covers a young woman of nineteen, Jonavis, to the spirit of Lita Gracita, who was born in 1919. Jackson-Opoku even had the nerve to venture into different societies and their view of women, from Mexico to Somalia. Jackson-Opoku put it all in a bowl, mixed it together and brought forth a fresh, alternative groove that once I found it, I tried my best to ride it to death.
Johnny's life is also told backwards, starting from his present working its way through his past. What was fascinating about the story was that the present was running parallel with the progression of the past being told. Jackson-Opoku worked IT! I wasn't the least bit confused. The story flowed effortlessly as Johnny's past unfolded and secrets were revealed.
In an effort to at least put up some kind of defense, all I can say is that since I haven't read Jackson-Opoku's The River Where Blood Is Born, I didn't know that she was an author to be reckoned with. Alas, all that and thirty five cents will get you a phone call. Jackson-Opoku is an author that I will be looking forward to inhaling her books in the future.
Do I recommend Hot Johnny (And the Women Who Loved Him)? Oh hell yeah! Definitely put this one on the To Read list. If you aren't a fan of Sandra Jackson-Opoku already, you will be after you read this book. Now, I'm going to jump into that dread pile of wood pulp, AKA, loosely I might add, as my library and see if I can dig up my copy of The River Where Blood Is Born. I know I have it somewhere. *Smile*