Book Review: What Becomes of the Brokenhearted: A Memoir
Publication Date: Jul 08, 2003
List Price: $22.95
Format: Hardcover, 288 pages
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Parent Company: Bertelsmann
Book Reviewed by Rondall Brasher
Before I begin this review I would like to "kick", not "thank" Thumper for handing me a stack of books, and putting a special emphasis on E. Lynn Harris’ new memoir, What Becomes of the Brokenhearted. He asked had if I had ever read any of his Harris’ books. I replied "no", but I am very aware of the success of his work, primarily because my wife owns all his books (I think). This is where it gets interesting, very "interesting". My wife read "What Becomes of the Brokenhearted" first and finished it in a week. However, it took me approximately 5 weeks to finish it, but more about that later.
Brokenhearted is the memoir of E. Lynn Harris, a writer, who has become one the most successful popular authors of recent years. His memoir is about his toilsome and extraordinary journey through life. It depicts the course of a boy who was raised by an abusive stepfather. This despot was determined to impress his stringent ideas about what it means to be a man upon the young Harris. Harris’ path to find this so-called macho version of his himself led him to live an unfulfilled life that drove him deep into depression. During this journey he discovered a spirituality that centered on forgiveness and prayer. Eventually Harris found it in himself to accept that he could never be anything other than who he was meant to be — a gay, Black man who was tired of hiding in the shadows. E. Lynn Harris’s story is one of inspiration, survival, and the value of self-love.
However, this is where (as my wife so kindly puts it) I drink my "Haterade". Harris’ writing style was similar to a high school sophomore writing about what they did last summer. The vocabulary of his memoir is written at the most basic of levels.
His story telling was banal and unoriginal. I found the task of continuing to read this book as punishment from the "Book Troll" (smile Thumper). I really wanted to hear more about the experiences of Harris’ life, but just not from this book.
Harris seems to ramble at times in a baffling detachment. He squandered the opportunity to share an incredible story about his life on trivial details, such as the name-dropping of every childhood classmate that seemed to pop into his mind. Even for a memoir, the frantic pace of his trite character introductions stunned me. These people appeared to be nothing more than minimal back drops in the story of his far more interesting journey.
E. Lynn Harris opened up a very sensitive and private part of his life with the writing of Brokenhearted. Yet, he treated some of the most defining moments of his life as though they were an experiment in a high school chemistry class. They just kind of happened. Harris offered very little insight or an invitation for the reader to identify with his mindset during this tumultuous time. I am not asking for all the lurid details but I am assuming that most of us want to know what was it like to experience the consummation of your sexuality. What was it like to be a part of such a clandestine tryst?
These frustrations left me disappointed with Brokenhearted. E. Lynn Harris wrote his memoirs to give readers his phenomenal story of not just surviving, but the faith it took to succeed. His story is about being one against all of the odds. But rather than being an account of his personal experiences, I suspect that readers should view it as a Cliff Notes version.
After all is said and done, my wife will still be in line to buy his next book. So Harris might be reading this review while he is laughing all the way to the bank. You can’t stop the hustle.