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October Suite

A Novel

by Maxine Clair

October Suite by Maxine Clair X
October Suite by Maxine Clair
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  • First Published:
    Oct 2001, 324 pages

    Paperback:
    Oct 2002, 336 pages

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Power Reviewer
Cathryn Conroy

A Mediocre Book with a Flat, Drawn-Out Storyline Punctuated with Whining, Handwringing Prose
I had such high hopes for this novel, since Elizabeth Strout, who is one of my favorite authors, wrote sterling praise for the book jacket. Quite simply, it's a mediocre book with a flat storyline that drags out a predictable tale way too long.

Written by Maxine Clair, this is the story of October Brown, a young, unmarried Black woman who finds herself pregnant. The book begins in 1950 and includes plenty of flashbacks to October's troubled childhood when her father murdered her mother in the bedroom of their Cleveland, Ohio home while their daughters washed the dinner dishes in the kitchen downstairs. October, who was 5 then, and her sister, Vergie, 9, move to Chillicothe to live with their mother's two maiden sisters, Aunt Frances and Aunt Maude. October bears plenty of wounds from that horrific day. She grows up to go to a teacher's college and gets a job teaching third grade in Wyandotte County, Kansas where she lives in a respectable boarding house with her friend, Cora, but when October falls in love with a married man, she loses all sense of her highly-prized respectability. And then she is pregnant. Feeling vulnerable and lost after the baby's birth, she gives him to Vergie and her husband, Gene, who are unable to have children of their own. The rest of the book deals with how October and Vergie handle this potentially explosive situation and the lifelong repercussions they both endure.

Unfortunately, far too much of the text deals with the emotions and psychological consequences of October's poor life decisions, which instead of being smartly introspective and thoughtful, comes off as whining, handwringing prose. Over and over and over. Add to that a superficial, out-of-left-field, soap-opera ending, and I closed the book rolling my eyes.
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