Review: Lenny Gray
LENNY GRAY - Earl Sewell
Kathie Books
BUY

April 2018
Historical Fiction
REVIEWER:  Wayne Jordan | RATING: A
REVIEW: LENNY GRAY is not an easy book to read or listen to (I’m reviewing the audible version).  It begins in the 1920s and ends in the early 1950s.  As the title suggests the story is about Lenny Gray and follow most of her early life living in Mississippi.

Lenny Gray is typical of the black women of the day. She’s uneducated and prepared to be married to someone she doesn’t love. However, Lenny knows there is more.  She wants to be independent, she wants to be ‘a thinker’ and most of all, she knows there is more to life than the stifling nature of her existence. Unfortunately, most of the book focuses on Lenny Gray’s grief and paid.  She is forced to marry a man she doesn’t love and over the course of twenty-five years gives birth to many children; some who survive and others who die, a reality of the poverty they live in.

Curly, Lenny’s husband, is also uneducated but what is different about him is that he is contented to be that way.  He believed in conformity; that the black man should know his place and do nothing to ‘shake’ the system.  It’s how his father survived, and how he intends to survive.  He has created the perfect world for himself; an obedience, childbearing wife and lots of children who will spend their time working the land with him. Sadly, he is surprised when his children eventually want to leave his ‘safe’ world, because they have been exposed to the outside world and know it is better.

LENNY GREY is about racism and poverty and the role of black men and women in a society that sees them as nothing.  We see racism and poverty at its worst and we see not only Lenny’s abused and suffering, but we also see the destruction of her dreams. After years of marriage, the older Lenny Grey we see at the end of the book is a dull version of her younger self.

The novel took me through a range of emotions; anger, sadness, disgust and…hope. There are glimmers of hope that trickle throughout the novel. The reader in me would have liked to see a more definitive statement about hope, but maybe that’s the reality of life for black folk during that time period.

LENNY GRAY
is not a perfect book, but it is a significant one for readers who want something though-provoking. Sewell has captured a slice of American history; stark, painful and real.

1st May 2018 | romcol@caribsurf.com