÷ ÷ ÷
"But time has taught me my options (who knows about the next man's?), my options are full of fast-twitch muscles."
Basketball or running from the law, these are the two options Champ feels he has in Mitchell S. Jackson's The Residue Years. The novel, a mother-son story set in Portland, Oregon, provides a window into the 1990s crack epidemic and the impact it had on one family, from the point of view of dealer and addict, both of whom reside within said family.
Maybe not the typical holiday fare, at least in the short pitch, but the real heart of this book lies in its unbearable hope: hope for family reunited, hope for giving and receiving love. Isn't that what we all want? Isn't that what all of these winter holidays — Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah — suggest: a light appearing in a time of darkness? Mitchell's novel is all about the light that familial love brings; it's about forgiving others and oneself. As Grace, Champ's mother, says at the novel's end, when she finds her way to a treatment program after tumbling back into addiction, again, "Yes, I say. Yes. This time this is it."
The human power to hope beyond all good reason, this is a message for the ages and certainly for the holidays. And, in addition to Jackson's energetic sentences — so full of life! — this is what drew me to The Residue Years.
÷ ÷ ÷
Jesmyn Ward grew up in DeLisle, Mississippi. She received her MFA from the University of Michigan and has been a Stegner Fellow at Stanford and a Grisham Visiting Writer in Residence at the University of Mississippi. She is currently an assistant professor of creative writing at the University of South Alabama. She is the author of the novels Where the Line Bleeds and Salvage the Bones, for which she won the 2011 National Book Award, and was a finalist for the NYPL Young Lions Literary Award and the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, as well as a nominee for the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. The memoir Men We Reaped is her latest book.
Books mentioned in this post
Jesmyn Ward is the author of Men We Reaped: A Memoir