Book Review: Gonna Lay Down My Burdens
Book Reviewed by Thumper
On a rainy night, Desiree Sheffield calls Carmen Taylor (on the eve of
Carmen’s wedding to Burl,) to come get her after another violent fight with her
husband Chester. That call will lead to an event that will change the lives of
Carmen, Desiree, Burl and Chester. Years before, despite the strong desire
Carmen and Chester felt for each other, Carmen dashed all promises of a
long-lasting relationship due to her "obligation" to Burl and her friendship to
Desiree. Gonna Lay Down My Burdens is Carmen’s life passing before her eyes
after striking down Chester on that rainy night — the night she and Desiree go
on the run for their lives.
Mary Monroe’s latest offering is Gonna Lay Down My Burdens, a novel of redemption, secrets, lies and friendship. Gonna Lay Down My Burdens is not the kind of novel that I expected from Monroe, for it is the closest she’s come to presenting a romance/relationship novel. But I was swept up and I cheered for a happy ending. I got a little ticked when it became apparent a happy ending wasn’t going to materialize. I continue to be bewitched by Monroe, and Gonna Lay Down My Burdens is the latest contribution to her long-spun spell.
When I began Gonna Lay Down My Burdens, I was disappointed because it lacked the pizzazz of Monroe’s previous novels. I had recently finished Monroe’s The Upper Room and my mouth was all set for more of the same — a novel containing bold, lively characters inhabiting stories that contained an undercurrent of violence. But Gonna Lay Down My Burdens possessed none of these elements. The novel explores the interior of Carmen’s character, and how her life had been governed by a couple of fateful occurrences that happened in her youth.
Gonna Lay Down My Burdens is the most romantic of Monroe’s books and proved to be outstanding. Monroe brought a variety of hues to the relationship of Carmen and Chester that are seldom seen in today’s popular relationship-driven novels. Neither Carmen nor Chester is financially well off, and both contained negative personality traits. It is easy to believe that both perform the everyday, mundane chores such as cleaning their bathrooms on Saturday mornings. Even Carmen’s persistent drive to obtain martyrdom (which pushed my "religion" to the edge of a cliff) did not dampen my enthusiasm for reading the book. Looking back at my misconceptions, I was ready to fence Monroe into a particular genre, and did not give her the opportunity to expand and explore as a writer. A mistake I will not repeat.
Carmen was an exquisitely created character. She has a good heart, which proves to be a blessing and a curse. Monroe presented Carmen’s life and thinking so clearly; it was easy to see the alternate paths her life would have taken if she had turned a different corner. Carmen is likable, but the decisions she made got on my nerves. Throughout the entire book I wanted to clap my hands in front of her face, yelling, "Snap out of it!" But, if she had, the charming story would have never occurred.
I was completely absorbed in Gonna Lay Down My Burdens. The novel is an outstanding addition to Monroe’s growing and impressive body of work. Although I wasn’t geared up to read Gonna Lay Down My Burdens, once I started, I had to know how it ended, which is testament to Monroe’s power as an author. I look forward to her next novel, whatever the genre.
Reviews of other books by Mary Monroe