Book Review: Ida Mae
Book Reviewed by Thumper
There are times when I love this job. The times that I hate to lay a book down for any reason. The times when the counting of pages mean that the story is coming to an end. I’ve encountered those times again with Ida Mae and Ida Mae-The Saga Continues written by Delores Thornton. The Ida Mae books are proof that good things do indeed come in small packages.
The central character is, of course, Ida Mae. The Ida Mae books cover the span of her life. She is adopted by her mother white employers after her mother’s death. In the first novel, Ida Mae, the story opens dramatically with Ida Mae coming into her home bruised and bleeding after being raped by three men. Her father, Theodore Belcher, who was paralyzed in a hunting accident and is now wheelchair bound, vows vengeance for the dastardly act committed against his daughter. Don’t be fooled. The novel is much more than the storytelling of revenge. Surprisingly, (and I’m not ashamed to admit that I was surprised), the novel unfolds into the story of Ida Mae’s life completely and those around her. We hear the tragic end of her parents love story; the life of her adoptive parents, Dixie Lee and Theodore Belcher; Milan, the hired hand who is much more than a handyman; and an uncompromising view of Ida Mae’s hometown, Cedartown. At the very center of all this is 17-year-old Ida Mae. Ida Mae is a strong character with unassuming strength and sweetness, with a love and talent for country music.
In Ida Mae-The Saga Continues, Ida Mae’s life advances and concentrates on her adulthood. Somewhat different than the novel Ida Mae because there’s no history, this does not alter the quality of Ida Mae The Saga Continues, the story is just as full. Ida Mae has a good and loving marriage, has children, a lovely home, and the start of a good career that is based on her love of country music. But, Ida Mae’s life is not trouble free. Ida Mae’s second child, daughter Rosemarie dies. Her best friend, Lottie Bell is in an abusive and troubled marriage. Ida Mae survives and lives on with tears, laughter, and heartbreak along the way. A wonderful conclusion that completes the world of Ida Mae. Nice.
I’m very taken with the Ida Mae books. Thornton’s timing is nice, quick and intelligent, yet at the same time finely detailed. I like that.
Thornton brought an excellent sense of objectivity that is essential when telling the story of people that you love to hate. Bebe Moore Campbell accomplished this with Your Blues Ain’t Like Mine. The Ida Mae Books had a nice supporting cast. Each character was fully developed and without psycho-analysis. No excuses or justifications. No soap box preaching of the evils done against Ida Mae or lecturing on the status of humanity. Thornton simply tells the story with an all-knowing eye, giving me a panoramic view of the world that Ida Mae lived in, without judgment; thereby, allowing me to come to my own conclusions.
Thornton was knowledgeable on a various number of issues and it showed. Living in a nursing home, antique guns, victims of rape and country music all came through without boring me or leaving me with an attitude that Thornton was "showing off".
Personal note: I don’t know why there’s this "thing" ("that thing, that thing, that thi-iii-in-ing" a little heads up to my girl Lauren Hill) that African-Americans don’t know or like country music. I love country music. I really identified with Ida Mae on this tip. There’s been times that I’ve bought country music at a music store and would put it in the middle of the stack so that it would draw the least bit of attention. Some of the cashiers would make a production about it. "Oh, sir, did you know that you picked this up?" Naturally, I gave them the evil eye, and called them everything but a-child-of-God-in-the-springtime in my head. Then there’s the time that one of my co-workers called himself getting on my nerves by turning up his radio when the tuner hit the country music station. It backfired when I started sing along. I knew what Ida Mae went through on the country music score and Thornton displayed it wonderfully.
Ida Mae and Ida Mae-The Saga Continues by Delores Thornton are wonderful novels. Thornton with a sense for drama, laughs and heartbreak, simply and intelligently tells a story in a confident and true voice. I, too, agree with some of the sentiments on the cover of Thornton’s books, she is indeed an author that I look forward to many more novels to come.