Randall Robinson, best known for his efforts in foreign policy advocacy and his bestselling nonfiction works An Unbroken Agony and Quitting America, turns his hand to fiction with the story of a young African-American man whose sense of self is shaped and buoyed by his visions of the past.
Gray March feels little connection to his emotionally distant parents, but from early childhood he is strongly bonded to his blind grandmother Makeda. Only to Gray will she divulge her dreams of Africa, dreams that she believes are true memories of past lives. As he comes of age against the turbulent backdrop of the Civil Rights movement, Gray discovers a need to prove to the world that his grandmother is right about her visions.
While the plot could not exist without the concept of reincarnation, Robinson's message has little to do with the mechanics or spiritual implications of past lives. Instead, Gray's ability to come to terms with himself through discovery of his family and racial history symbolizes the healing power that comes with knowing one's roots. One of Gray's professors suggests that black Americans are struggling with their cultural identity because slavery ripped it from them, but Robinson is not only exploring what it means to be black. His theme of knowing the past before planning the future applies to all cultures, all people. Pick up this odyssey of family drama, history and love, and be prepared to consider your own beginnings.
***This review originally appeared in Shelf Awareness Readers Edition. Sign up for this free and awesome newsletter at http://www.shelf-awareness.com for the latest news and reviews! This review refers to an ARC provided by Shelf Awareness.***