#BlackLoveBooks Challenge Day 9: Sad Ending: a relationship with an unfortunate ending
Loving Donovan by Bernice McFadden left me a little disturbed, but in a good way, kinda like the movie The Curious Case of Benjamin Button starring Brad Pitt and Taraji P. Henson did. I read it years ago, and loved it, but I was so unsettled I couldn’t write a review or summary on Goodreads. How does one write about it without giving away the story and robbing people of the experience that is loving Donovan (little L on purpose), literally? Readers have to go on the journey and get to know Campbell and Donovan for themselves.
I’d heard about Bernice McFadden for years (what else is new with me?), but hadn’t read any of her books. Before becoming a member, then Blog Manager and now Treasurer of the NY chapter of the Women’s National Book Association, (sorry not sorry for the humble brag), I attended a panel event for National Reading Group Month at Strand Bookstore in New York City’s Union Square. There, I finally bought a copy of Nowhere is a Place, but didn’t read it. A year or two later when I learned about a discussion between her and Terry McMillan for the re-release of Loving Donovan at BRIC, I had to go.
Sidebar: I love attending author events, an interest that started as an assignment when I was college. Somehow I get the same joy from attending a loud R&B concert as I do at a quiet book discussion, even about a book I haven’t read.
Per usual, I bought a book to support the author, but this time I actually started reading it on the ride home. Coincidentally, the organizer of my book club at the time had selected Loving Donovan for an upcoming book club meeting. I figured I’d be ahead of the game, even though I had not read the current selection.
I devoured Loving Donovan and couldn’t wait to discuss it with someone. There are so many interesting (and shady) characters in the lives of Campbell and Donovan. I was devastated when I couldn’t attend the book club brunch to discuss, possibly debate, other members about the novel. When my cousin, in L.A., asked if I had any suggestions for her book club, I suggested Loving Donovan without hesitation. I will never forget when she called me for our usual weekly Sunday catch up.
Voice tinged with anger—maybe just disappointment, but I prefer to call it anger for dramatic flair, she said, “I didn’t like it.” It’s not that she didn’t like it like it, per se. Without spoiling the ending, she felt left wanting more. Unfulfilled. She wanted more return on her investment on these characters. I think most people are conditioned and expect neat, tidy, and explained happily-ever-afters in the traditional sense. From what I heard, several ladies in my book club voiced the same opinion. I’m not one of those people, which is all the more reason I wish I’d been able to attend the book club meeting. It’s also why I loved the book.
Set in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, we meet Campbell and Donovan in their separate, and let’s be honest, unhealthy lives, before they cross paths and begin their own unhealthy relationship with each other. It starts out sexually, but the two think they can settle into a real relationship, even planning a trip together, as couples do. Both harbor secrets and hurts from their past, not just limited to their childhoods. Like Jay-Z said, “you can’t heal what you never reveal,” and to continue with the musical reference, “hurt people hurt people” sings Jussie Smollet.
Earlier, I said the ending left me disturbed, but in a good way. The book made me say “oh, so it’s not just me.” Though I’m not a single mother, I can relate to Campbell’s false promise to herself that “Ain’t no man ever going to make me cry.” She has a creative outlet in journaling and making collages, which becomes her main source of income. So much so, that Donovan feels threatened by her success. Let’s talk about how many times a man has told me to my face that I’m intimidating because I’m independent. Let’s not list how many men have pulled a Donovan. If/when you read the novel, you’ll understand, though I hope not personally.
Loving Donovan is the first Bernice McFadden book that I ever read. It was followed by Nowhere is a Place, and The Book of Harlan, which is tied as my favorite McFadden book, so far. Others are on my shelf & to be read list. Thanks to Harlan I learned black people were also victims of the Holocaust. Fellow ignorant people like me will be schooled when they watch the movie adaptation (READ THE BOOK!), which she announced via Twitter in 2017. I’m patiently awaiting the release of Praise Song for the Butterflies later this month. In the meantime, I wonder if I can handle re-reading Loving Donovan. Read it with a friend and I bet y’all will debate the ending.