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Water Street Book Review

Phyllis Rhodes

Water Street is an engaging novel that transports the reader to a middle-class neighborhood in small town Stanford, Kentucky, USA. The residents are hardworking, law-abiding citizens who go to work, church, pay their taxes, and raise their families to the best of their abilities. In the opening passages of the book, the author mentions that every person has two stories to tell; one story by day and the other by night which is kept near the heart for safekeeping. Wilkinsonallows the reader to experience both stories through the carefully crafted monologues and short narratives.

The novel opens with the manic-depressant Yolanda in the midst of a meeting with her psychiatrist. In her session, the reader is casually introduced to a few Water Street residents her best friend, Mona, whom she idolizes, her brother, KiKi, her husband, Junior, and a host of other characters who influenced her in childhood and adulthood.  The beauty of the novel is the reader will learn more about Mona, Kiki, Junior, Sandy, Maxine, et al in subsequent chapters via a series of soliloquies or third person accounts. Through the selected medium, the reader observes how they tackle a host of issues such as interracial relationships, marital problems (infidelity), quests for love, divorce, absentee parents, etc.

Because it is a small town and all the residents live on Water Street, the stories are interconnected and the same characters are often mentioned in one or more stories. So for example, we hear about Mona, the best friend from Yolanda, Mona, my little sister's best friend that I slept with from Kiki; Mona, in her own words, etc. We get up close and personal viewpoints from mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, daughters, sons, neighbors and friends.  One particular noteworthy item is that the author's skill in writing from the male perspective is equally compelling as from the females.  In "The Girl of My Dreams: Kiki", we find Kevin/Kiki calling off the wedding after the rehearsal dinner, but not for the reasons one may think because of the title of the story.  We also experience other male viewpoints in the coming of age stories "Water Street, 1979: Junior", "Between Men", and a principled man in search of love in "An Ordinary Man: Reverend Townsend."

The dialogue is mature, the writing is great, and the stories are painfully honest. These are not eccentric or malevolent characters, in fact, they are so down-to-earth that they seem real, almost like ordinary folk instead of fictional protagonists. Just as with non-fictional beings, the harsh realities of life strikes Water Street as with any other street and the imperfections, vulnerabilities, pain, and joy of the characters are expertly revealed. Water Street's messages are universal and timeless: the same people with the same issues can be found in the inner cities as well as the rural landscapes in any decade.This is a great second novel by CrystalWilkinson; I must add her debut novel, Blackberries, Blackberries to my list of books to check out this year.

The Nubian Circle Book Club rating for Water Street is 4.5 out of 5 stars. We welcome your comments and thoughts about this book review. Please e-mail us at: