Jump at the Sun
by Kim McLarin
Pub. Date: July 2006
Format: Hardcover, 320pp
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Reviewed by Idrissa Uqdah
It's Always The Mama Baggage
Kim McLarin is known for writing novels about touchy issues within the Black community. Her stories step on toes and make us think about things that we really don't want to air in public. In her third novel; Jump at the Sun, she has really dug in deep and exposed the ’mama baggage’.
Grace Jefferson is a character who has everything that a modern-day African American woman should want and need, on the surface. Living in suburban Boston in a lovely house with her very accomplished and devoted husband and her two adorable daughters, Grace has it going on, on the surface. She has earned a PhD. in Sociology, married a man who is devoted and sensitive and birthed two healthy children. What more can a woman ask for; especially a Black woman?
In this saga of dissatisfaction and emotional turmoil we meet a woman who is still wanting. Her family history has given her both sides of motherhood. She was birthed by a woman who devoted her entire life to mothering, who was birthed by a woman who walked away from the same obligations every chance she got. Neither woman found satisfaction. No wonder Grace is confused and unhappy. What she seeks is not something that she is even able to recognize.
Being the mama is usually a revered and ever important role in the African American community. When the mama baggage is toted around from generation to generation some dysfunctional family relationships are always the result. Grace can't help herself. She wants more than life has dealt her; yet what she really wants is unclear to her, her husband and her family.
McLarin's characters are richly drawn. The reader can feel the pain and the sorrow and can actually visualize the women in her story. Grace's mother; Mattie is the all-suffering and ever enduring mama who starved for the love from her own mama, tends to smother and suffocate her children. Grace's grandmother, Royal Rose Polk born in a Mississippi Delta sharecropper's shack tired of picking cotton at age 15 so she ran off to Memphis with the school teacher's son believing that any life was better than her own. Mattie was the product of that unsavory match and Royal Rose soon found herself back in Mississippi mothering a child she never learned how to love.
This bittersweet story is told with such compassion and understanding of the human spirit that the reader has no room to pass judgement on these women. Their ’mama baggage’ is reminiscent of our tales of woe and misfortune of generations past gone. McLarin's novel tells how our history of slavery in America still overshadows our accomplishments in acquiring the American dream. It's a story about three generations of Black women who hunger for something they never seem to attain teaching us that no matter how much things change; most things always remain the same.