Book Review: When All Hell Breaks Loose: A Novel
Publication Date: Sep 02, 1999
List Price: $19.95 (store prices may vary)
Page Count: 256
Parent Company: Villard
Book Reviewed by Thumper
less than a minor disturbance. If you can grasp these things along with a few others, then you have the essence of the trouble that our hero Gregory Alston is in…for all hell is breaking loose and Gregory is going to have to hang.
When All Hell Breaks Loose is the debut novel of Camika Spencer. A look-see into Gregory Alston’s life. A good black man dealing with the women in his life. And what the women in his life means to his life. But Gregory is not surround just by women, for we also get to know his best friend, Tim, whose a player. Gregory’s father Adolphus, a man who raised his two children, Gregory and Shreese, alone while his wife, Louise, goes to France to pursue a singing career as a jazz singer. In those 19 years, Shreese goes very church’. To the point that she is giving hour long sermons in tent revivals in which her dolls are the only attendants. Shreese attends church everyday, participates in every church activity that she can. Adolphus hasn’t dated or seen another woman since Louise left him all of those years ago. Louise, upon hearing of Gregory’s upcoming nuptials decides to come back home and know his bride to be along with getting to know her family again. Then there’s Greg’s bride to be, a successful beautician, Adrian Jenkins. His “perfect” woman. But, his perfect woman is beginning to get strange on him little by little. This is Gregory’s life. Welcome to it.
When All Hell Breaks Loose is a Gregory’s story. Spencer, wisely, kept it Gregory’s story. A novel told in the first person is not my favorite type of novel. Whether the character/ narrator is “good”, “funny” or “evil”, if the character/narrator is uninteresting, I can not enjoy it. For it calls on the character/narrator to be fully developed and for the author to have the finesse to build, paint and furnish the world that the character/narrator exist. The author must bring objectivity. Camika Spencer performs these prerequisites well. Spencer builds Gregory’s world and allowed me, as the reader, to sit on his shoulder. For she doesn’t push the envelope with her first person narrative, she picks it up and takes it to the limit and gently sits it on the line, as if it’s not a problem. Gregory talks directly to the reader; thereby, breaking down the fifth wall. In my opinion, this is no easy feat, for Gregory includes the reader into his world as if the reader had always been there, as if it is the most natural of things. It is at times, such as these, that I wish I could turn into Ella Fitzgerald in order to sing her praises on pitch, with bell-like tones, bending and weaving notes in between Peterson’s piano keys.
One of Ella Fitzgerald’s trademark was her impeccable timing. Spencer also possesses a remarkable timing in the way that she allowed Gregory’s world to unfold, realistically. When All Hell Breaks Loose didn’t take on the rhythm of a train, slowly grinding it’s wheel’s, rolling faster and faster until it’s moving a break neck speed. Nor does it have the timing of a roller coaster with crawling up mountains and running down into valleys. The novel moved at a life-pace. The reason that I was impressed with this fact is that it held my interest. As a matter of fact, I became more involved in the story as it progressed. I did not want this story to end. I could have sat on Gregory’s shoulder for a very long time. A novel this well written, this interesting, this GOOD was a pleasure. A vacation that I did not know had ended until it ended. I read this novel in a day. YES, it is one of those books.
The following is a true story. I started reading the book on a Monday. I brought it to work and misplaced it. I couldn’t find it. I looked all over my place of employment for it. At that time, I had read the book starting at the Prologue to Chapter 3. I was one sad and sick soul! I did feel a tinge of guilt because I’m thinking, how am I going to tell a Troy that I lost the book? This thought was just that a thought unworthy of entertainment. The main thing was finding that book so I can finish reading it! I began to scour the Internet bookstores to buy it. I simply had to finish that book! I was a sick ticket! I came into work Tuesday, walked through Alexa’s department and there it was...MY BOOK!!, sitting on the desk, as if to say ”Gotcha, didn’t I!?” I was one happy soul. I smiled and giggled like it was Christmas. Then Tanisha appeared. She works in that department. Tanisha is evil. You all know those people that shows up on the Jerry Springer show acting like fools, and you say to yourself, where in the Hell did they get these people? Well, most of those people are Tanisha’s relatives; cousins, nephews, nieces and what nots. Anyway, Tanisha says, “Alexa I told you that was Thumper’s book. Boy, you had left that book in the bathroom”, she says this LOUD and giggling. I’ll tell you the truth, that woman wouldn’t know a quiet moment if it sat in her lap and asked for a bedtime story. I then start giving her the look that says, how dare you touch my book, why I oughta ...well you get the idea. Tanisha sees this look and keeps on talking…as if being quiet is against her religion. These are moments that she lives for, you see. Tanisha continues to say, “boy, I read the first chapter of that book and I want it back as soon as you get done with it so I can see what happens!” Now, the reason that this is a testament for this novel is that Tanisha DO NOT READ BOOKS! Essence, Jet, Sista 2 Sista, Ebony, these are Tanisha’s standard reading fare. Immediately, when Tanisha says this, all heads turns, for a book to get Tanisha’s (Evilene behind her back) interest it HAS to be good, and this one is. When All Hell Breaks Loose, I hope and pray, is the beginning of many novels to come from Camika Spencer. This is one for keeps.