The Light Always Breaks by Angela Jackson-Brown
Reviewed by Cardyn Brooks
20th-c. Historical fiction w/romantic elements
As 1947 closes out, successful restaurant owner Eva Cardon considers her family's complicated past as she prepares to host a New Year's Eve party with a guest list loaded with some of Washington, D.C.’s most iconic political movers and shakers from Women’s Suffragist and Civil Rights activist Mary McLeod Bethune to Congressman Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., and celebrities like Josephine Baker, Duke Ellington, and Frank Sinatra. Against the turbulent backdrop of human rights protests for equal access to the voting ballot, education, protection under the law and Civil Rights, this knowledgeable author has crafted a family saga that examines the emotional and physical inheritances from generations of racism. Eva's older sister Frederique and her brother-in-law Reverend Pearson Montgomery embody different approaches to resistance and to advocacy in Black/African Diasporic communities while Senator Courtland Hardiman Kingsley IV and his family do the same for privileged Anglo/Caucasian/white sensibilities. Events alter their parallel trajectories into collisions with radiant impacts.
The initial writing style tells more than it shows in order to set the scene before the narrative eventually eases into a smoother, basic rhythm of allowing the story to unfold. An immersive sense of time and place makes The Light Always Breaks an enticing lure to understanding complex factors in being privileged economically while politically and otherwise experiencing discrimination. Rich historical context is this novel's greatest strength and the source of its 4 stars. There's a quote that says, “History doesn't repeat itself, but it rhymes.” From the hierarchy of skin complexion to racialized police brutality and sketchy political deals, Eva's 20th-century story rings a discordant echo with present-day societal unrest.
Content warning: some racialized and misogynistic hostility and police brutality, and references to them
Published by Harper Muse, July 5, 2022