My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Nappily Ever After has been on my TBR list for over ten years, spanning back to my days of working at Borders Bookstore. There were talks of then “It Girl” Halle Berry adapting it into a film. For whatever reason, not only was the movie not produced, but I never got around to reading the novel. It faded from memory and sunk to oblivion in my TBR list. It skyrocketed back to the top when I learned that Netflix would be releasing the movie starring Sanaa Lathan. She starred in one of my favorite #BlackLove films, Love & Basketball along with Omar Epps. I was excited. I had to read Nappily before watching the movie because, well, book nerd.
The 2000 novel by Trisha M. Thomas was reissued with a movie tie-in cover. Sanaa Lathan’s shaved is surrounded by flowers, a set of hair clippers, a lifter comb, and a “Now a Netflix film” sticker. In my failing quest to spend less money on books and to use my library card more, I decided I’d borrow the book from the New York Public Library using Libby. That’s how I learned that Nappily Ever After is actually the first book in a trilogy. I have no idea how that fact missed me.
PSA: get a free library card and download the free app Libby to borrow e-books and audiobooks from your local library from the comfort of your own home. I know, I know, like me you prefer the look and feel of real books. Well, sometimes you gotta evolve. What I don’t prefer are the library fines for not returning overdue real books even after I’ve read them. With Libby, the books are automatically returned on their due date.
As it turns out, hundreds of other people had the same notion that I did. I added my name to the e-book waitlist. The wait was triple digits. No matter. My TBR list is triple digits. I have dozens of other books, old and new, to read whilst I wait for my turn to come up.
When my turn finally came, I was introduced to Venus Johnston, a thirty-four year old ad executive, who decides to shave off all her hair after she realizes how much her life has been centered around maintaining her hair. Exorbitant amounts of money and time have spent on hair appointments to have the “creamy crack” slathered onto her hair and scalp. She bucks against the notion of “good hair.” She wants to go back to basics, her natural hair. Nappy hair! Although Venus is the client, her stylist does not agree with her decision. She doesn’t want to do it. The stylist is the first of many to regard Venus in a different light because of her new hairstyle. After all, the standard of beauty is to have hair—bonus points if it’s silky straight, long and flowy. Venus no longer checked all those boxes.
Around the same time that Venus decides her chemically straightened hair must go, she concludes that her long-term but noncommittal boyfriend Clint must suffer the same fate. After emotionally and financially supporting him during his quest to become a doctor, she feels unfulfilled. Hopes of receiving a ring are dashed when she receives a dog instead. She kicks him out of their shared home.
As the novel continues to unfold, the reader witnesses the Venus evolution. At first she feels less attractive being bald. Absolutely no one has a positive reaction the first time they see her new style. Newly single, she has to acclimate to living and being alone. Her confidence eventually slowly returns after overcoming harassment at work and plotting to win an account for which she feels the most qualified.
I enjoyed the messages of empowerment about a black woman coming to realize that she is in control of all facets of her life. In my twenties, I cut my permed, shoulder length hair into a pixie cut. Years later, I stopped perming my hair to rock a mini-fro. After a short period of wearing braids, I began the process of locking my hair.
Side note: There is nothing “dreadful” about my hair. I refer to them as locs, never dreadlocks.
Each change was met with surprise, especially the locs. “But you have to cut off your hair if you change your mind” was the constant refrain when I shared my plans. This was long before the natural hair movement that’s so popular now. My locs never looked unkempt and they were embraced early on. Over the past 15 years, I’ve had some beautiful styles. My hair is my crown, but it’s not my identity. Most of the women in my family have chemically-straightened hair. No judgment. We all do what’s best for us. Likewise, Venus defines her beauty on her own terms. She determines her own happiness. She exits an unfulfilling relationship. She takes control of the trajectory of her career. She learns self love.
Those parts of the novel are solid.
The plot crumbles and seems rushed in other parts. Avoiding spoilers, I will say this: rebounding Clint enters into a thing—I hesitate to call it a relationship—with a woman who probably should have remained a one night stand. This woman happens to be in a relationship with a rich, married man, who…crosses paths with Venus. And, oh yeah, did I mention that Venus has a stalker sending her nasty letters at work? Yeah.
After starting out so promising, Nappily descends into what seems like a convoluted made-for-TV movie. Of course, because it’s a novel and novels are supposed to have happy endings, there is one. It is called Nappily Ever After. Surely, I don’t have to explain the play on words. The actual circumstances of the ending are unexpected, but like I said before, it seems rushed.
Overall, the novel was a quick and easy read. I’m happy to update my Goodreads account with “read.” I’m also happy that it was a library loan and not a purchase. I doubt I’ll be recommending it as a favorite read to anyone. Now that I’ve finally read it, I’m looking forward to watching the movie adaptation.