Book Review: Mama Dearest

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by E. Lynn Harris

Publication Date: Sep 22, 2009
List Price: $25.99
Format: Hardcover, 400 pages
Classification: Fiction
ISBN13: 9781439158906
Imprint: Gallery Books
Publisher: Simon & Schuster, Inc.
Parent Company: CBS Corporation

Read a Description of Mama Dearest

Book Reviewed by Thumper

As many of you know, Mama Dearest is the last book written by E. Lynn Harris. I was a fan of Harris’s during the Invisible Life days and a few books afterward.  I had stopped reading Harris’s books because I was dissatisfied with the stories and the characters.  After several years of going on an E. Lynn Harris-free diet; I read his later novel, Just Too Good to be True, and liked it.  I enjoyed it enough to take Harris off my ’no read’ list.  Along with Harris’s untimely death, and the grass root campaign to make Harris’s last novel a number 1 on the Bestseller’s List; I wanted to do my part to at least read Harris’s last novel-my good deed for the day-but like the old saying goes, ’the road to hell is paved with good intentions’.  Hell is where I was!  This novel SUCKS!  Not only is Mama Dearest chock full of two dimensional characters with fairy tale mindsets, but the ending is a rushed, incomplete mess!  I am afraid that Harris would have continued disliking me after reading this review and the feeling would have been mutual!  

Yancey Harrington Braxton is back’unfortunately.  The novel begin with Yancey, performing the role of Deena Jones in a traveling company of Dreamgirls, the same role she knocked Nicole Spencer out of all those years ago, in Harris’s substandard imitation of the movie All About Eve in Not a Day Goes By.  Time has not been kind to Yancey.  Her money is looking funny; her New York condo is on the market; and she’s in a road company of a show which should have been an old notch on her resume.  When the show makes a stop in Miami, Yancey acquires a new lover, S. Marcus.  S. Marcus, between love making sessions with Yancey, vows to start a reality show starring Yancey that will take her back to the top.  To make matters worse Yancey’s low rent, bargain basement clearance sale, morals lacking mother, Ava, is being paroled from jail and Yancey does not know it.

Ava is out for revenge and recapturing her old life.  The first step in doing that is destroying Yancey.  Thrown into this already dysfunctional mix is Yancey secret daughter, Madison B.  Madison B. is the new Disney teen star after winning a popular American Idol-like talent show.  Ava wants Yancey to contact Madison and get some money.  Yancey wants to get back to the top on her own’without using her daughter or Madison B. knowing who she is.  Madison B. wants to reach out to the mother she has never known.  The three generations of family will all come crashing into each other and everyone will not make it out alive.

I did not like Mama Dearest.  Honestly, if I had known that Yancey and Ava were making return appearances, I would have skipped the whole affair. As many of you may remember, it’s OK if you don't because it has been years, I did not like Yancey or Ava when they showed up in Harris’s Not a Day Goes By.  I like them even less now.  Ava is the book’s only saving grace, and that’s not saying much.  She is at least interesting, albeit delusional, but mildly fascinating.  The rest of the characters, Harris assumed, I the reader, would suspend my knowledge of reality and not apply it or any kind of standard to his characters’.  Humph, you know what they say when you assume, you make an ass out of u and me!  Nobody makes an ass out of me and I know it.

Despite the storyline being a totally limp fairy tale and the characters as compelling as sawdust; Mama Dearest has the most hurried, incomplete, and downright confusing ending I have ever encountered in a book.  It was horrific!  The ending makes me wonder if the book was unfinished when Harris passed and the editor just threw an ending on it in order to publish it.  Whether Harris was alive or not, heads need to roll because the ending makes the book worse and the headache I had while I read the book throb harder.

Mama Dearest is not a good book.  Even though I had stopped reading Harris’s books years ago, I am sad that his literary legacy had to end with this novel.  I hope that Harris’s other books and writings will be better remembered for his Invisible Life trilogy are wonderful books.  As time goes on and his legacy is celebrated, I pray that the existence of Mama Dearest will be forgotten.


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