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by Dwayne S. Joseph
Publisher: Urban Books
How can I put this,The Womanizers by Dwayne S. Joseph could be classified as a literary "throwback"? Although the novel is not as wearable as a replica of an old St. Louis Raiders jersey; The Womanizers has the flavor of the novels written in the 80s, when Waiting to Exhale was being consider groundbreaking, E. Lynn Harris' novels were quiet, guilty pleasures, and Eric Jerome Dickey had yet to claim his throne. It does not have the tight storyline, the lightening quick pace, or the entertaining characters of its predecessors. The Womanizers, a novel about three married couples and how each couple handles adultery, suffers from trying to be something it is not -- a well written novel.
The novel centers on three male friends, Mike, Ahmad, and Max and their relationships with the wives. Mike, a police officer, lives by the principle that it is a sin to let a good piece of -- well -- a good looking woman go unappreciated, while his wife Mya is at home waiting for him, blowing up his cell phone, and dying for some attention. Ahmad, the high school teacher, and his wife, Shay, have not had sex in the six months following the birth of their daughter Nicole. Baby boy is wound up so tight, sooner or later, something is gonna have to give and it could be his marriage. Max manages recording acts. He's had some success, but his career isn't blowing up all over the place either. Max's wife Trina doesn't mind Max chasing his dreams and loves being supportive of her man because she believes in him. The problem is Max don't don't believe fat meat is greasy; at least as far as his marriage is concerned because he's busy having an affair with Sharon. While this is bad enough by itself, it becomes extra strength nasty because Sharon is Trina's mother, the mother that Trina hates. Naturally, it doesn't take much for the three friends' worlds to crash and burn Ain't nuthin' but drama bay-bee.
I hated The Womanizers. At times I was so ticked off at the book, there were a couple of moments when I thought I saw Jesus! Its plot (so tired I thought somebody had put it under with anesthesia), characters (boring enough to make Martha Stewart look down right interesting), narrative (*singing* I'd rather drink muddy water), the book has not one redeeming quality. I take that lie back, the book had ONE redeeming quality -- it finally came to end!
Joseph stepped out of the box making a mistake that set the novel up for failure. Any novel along the lines of The Womanizers should be a character driven novel. It's the characters that will attract and keep my attention. Mike, Ahmad, Max and their wives are not new characters, I have read about each of them in hundreds of other books. Joseph did not make any of them unique or tell their stories from a different perspective. I knew what each of them would say or do in any given situation. I found them all boring.
Joseph compounded his error by employing a narrative that needs highly developed characters. Each of the friends, including their wives, narrates the chapters in the book. These characters are nowhere near developed enough that I could tell which one was handling the narration duties. Throughout the novel, the narrator voice did not change. The tone, pace, inflection remained the same for the entirety of the book and that spells death for any novel using this narrative form. I should have been able to identify which character was handling the narration simply by reading the words, and not the chapter title.
The Womanizer is a drama. I like my dramas to move like it stole something. The pace of the drama has to be hard hitting and fast, instead this story unfolded at a snail's speed. Joseph kept repeating facts about the characters and tried to get Faulkner-like on me with in-depth descriptions that added nothing to the story. These things contributed to slowing the flow of the story. I felt like I was in a vortex. By the time I got to the middle of the book, I shouting at the book to "Move, MOVE DAMN IT!" Then I did the ultimate move by flipping to the back of the book to see home much of this hell I had to endure. I was on page 101 and discovered I had 200 more pages to go. I was this close to bursting out in tears. See, this is what makes people reach for that crack pipe. If I had Joseph's phone number I would have called him and told him, "Look, I did not sign on to ride shotgun while Hoke drive Miss Daisy to the Piggly-Wiggly. I got places to go."
Frankly, while I agonized through The Womanizers, Eric Jerome Dickey was on
my mind. Dickey stayed on my mind like a pork chop sandwich being dangled in
front of a hungry vegetarian with nary a carrot in sight. Dickey's early novels
should have served as road maps for Joseph to follow. As it stands now, The
Womanizers is a book that is begging for an editor that knows what true editing
entails, one that could have told Joseph to throw The Womanizers back and fish
for another novel, because this one Ain't ready.