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Selah's Bed Book Review

Phyllis Rhodes

At a very high level, Jenoyne Adams's latest novel can be described as a moving story of Selah and her struggle with love, acceptance, and forgiveness; however there are so many more facets and dimensions to Selah's Bed that this review cannot express because doing so would spoil the reading experience. 

In the novel Selah is an artist who photographs nude men and is always looking for the "perfect shot" that will convey the true essence of her subjects.  On the same vibe, Adams wields her pen to convey the essence of Selah's troubled spirit.  As a child, Selah is abandoned by her teenaged, prostitute mother which causes a lingering ache to emerge in her heart.  As an adult, Selah loses a child and the ache becomes more intense, entrenching itself so deeply that Selah begins to withdraw into dark, private places to find solace with destructive results. 

Selah is a complex character and the author is very effective in layering the stress, pain, and regrets on Selah against a familiar backdrop.  She is reared in the projects by her pill-popping grandmother (Mama Gene) and alcoholic grandfather.  She never knew her father.  It has been said that imitation is the highest form of flattery and we soon see a young Selah desperately trying to connect with her absentee mother by emulating her whorish ways.  We see her wrestle with her relationship (or lack thereof) with God, her husband, and eventually her lover only to find some semblance of peace by writing letters to her long lost daughter, Michelle.  Throughout the novel, we see her slowly embrace a bohemian lifestyle and rescind into deep internal places eventually distancing herself from everyone who is dear to her.  We see her crumble when her "other mother," Mama Gene, falls victim to mental abandonment via Alzheimer's disease leaving Selah again motherless twice in a lifetime.  Through a series of events, Selah's emotional well overflows and it is then when her epiphany occurs. 

Adam's style of writing is lyrical, sharp, and refreshing.  The plot is a revitalizing departure from the popular "contemporary dramas" of late.  The characters are full-bodied and marvelously broken.  She expertly conveys the psychological and emotional aspects of a deprived child who evolves into a heavily burdened woman.  Selah is a complicated, passionate character and the author skillfully reveals the fragility of Selah's damaged psyche from past transgressions.  She masterfully unfolds the driving forces that spawn Selah's decadent behavior by showing us her world from childhood to adulthood.  Although a work of fiction, I loved the manner in which the author cleverly exposes a number of social issues and universal themes throughout the novel.  One example is the maternal bonding/love/protection theme; it is an underlying driving force for Selah because she yearns to receive it as a child and desires to provide it as an adult to her long lost child.

This is my first reading of this author's work and I was wonderfully surprised and entertained by the experience.  However, I would not recommend this book to everyone; only those who would enjoy and appreciate a "chic" departure from the norm.  I plan to pull Resurrecting Mingus from my overcrowded bookshelf and place it on my nightstand--and I will definitely pick up her next release.
The Nubian Circle Book Club rating for Selah's Bed is 4.5 of 5 stars.