Novel Review | Just Too Good to Be True by E. Lynn Harris

too good to be trueE. Lynn Harris’ novel, Just Too Good to Be True, covers several important, and highly relevant, themes in American life today, from sports and gold-diggers to chastity and single parenthood; everyone will find something to relate to in this novel.

I initially picked up the book at the airport from Hudson Booksellers. The words New York Times Bestseller caught my eye. I had wanted to read a title by E. Lynn Harris, for quite some time and with a long flight ahead of me, I was glad that I had this book to keep me company. It held my attention through delays, rain, and turbulence.

What Was Good

The main character is Brady Bledsoe. Bledsoe is a promising young football star who looks like he is headed for a career in the NFL and a shot at the Heisman trophy. On top of that, he is a great role model as team captain, a devoted son, and has vowed to remain chaste until marriage. Brady’s mother Carmyn has raised him well, teaching him the virtues of waiting until marriage, working hard in school, and staying focused on football rather than girls in order to achieve his goals.

As the title implies, all of this sounds just a little “too good to be true.” Carmyn, Brady’s devoted mother is hiding serious secrets about her past, and about Brady’s father. Brady is struggling to maintain his “pure” image while making a series of secret choices that could devastate his future. When a young woman named Barrett enters his life, Brady finds it more and more difficult to maintain his clean image and even more difficult to maintain his close-knit relationship with his mother.

By the end of this book, everyone learns something about being true to who you really are, the importance of family ties, and just how difficult it is to keep from suffering a fall. Most of the struggles faced by the characters were realistic; the pressure on athletes and single moms are easy to relate to.

What Was Not So Good

I would have liked to know more about the future of some of the secondary characters, like Barrett, but I guess Harris is saving the rest of their stories for a different novel.

My criticism of this book is that, like many urban novels, the book is riddled with graphic sexual images. The author does a great job of “show, not tell,” and intimately describing what physical interactions take place between characters; but, sometimes, it’s just a little too much. Describing exactly how who-did-what seemed out of place in a book with such strong themes of chastity and family. It almost seemed as if the author was ridiculing people who make celibacy vows, by implying that they aren’t ever really being kept.

Looking back, it seemed strange to me that Carmyn was able to keep secrets about Brady’s father for so long. Why didn’t Brady notice that he never met his grandparents? Why didn’t he ever ask his father’s name? I found some parts of the plot unbelieveable and a little too strange to be true.

If you don’t want to read about characters who are homosexual, or men who are GP, “gay for pay,” then, this may not be the book for you. The one character in this book who was uber-masculine was quite suspect in his sexual practices. Again, there seemed to be a hidden message in making the male character who was the most active with women, and the most macho, the one who was most likely to be engaged in questionable acts with men.

While I enjoyed E. Lynn Harris’ writing style, I would rather read a bestseller that is less sexually graphic. It will be a long time, if ever, that I read another one of his titles.  You can find this book just anywhere, including local bookstores and Amazon. After this title, I think I’m going to go back to reading Urban Christian Fiction, and non-fiction titles.

Update! Only days after I read my first book by E. Lynn Harris, the literary legend passed away. I wrote about it here. I send my condolences to his family and fans.

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Christian Book Review| The Single Sister Experiment by Mimi Jefferson

I found this book in Wal-Mart about a year ago when I was browsing for my weekly Urban Fiction read. I had seen it before, but I passed it up when I saw the writing at the bottom “THE FINEST IN CHRISTIAN FICTION.” Althought I am a Christian, I did not want to read anything that read like a Bible for relaxation. On a different trip to the story, I picked the book up and read the back. The synopsis from the publisher sounded just like me or someone that I knew:

In The Single Sister Experiment, Joan, Tisha, and Lila are three single, ambitious, party girls
embarking on a journey where they attempt to give up sex and draw nearer to God. But giving
up their boyfriends and club hopping for empty beds and Bible Study is more challenging than
they ever imagined.
Get ready for a turbulent ride, as these three women face off with the demons of their pasts,
embrace new lifestyles, and ultimately fall into the waiting arms of our Savior. Sisters will be able
to identify with Joan, Tisha and Lila, even if they don’t know all of the words to Amazing Grace,
couldn’t find the book of Haggai in the Bible if someone paid them, and their husbands are not
the only men that have seen them naked.
The Single Sister Experiment is an inspirational journey for us all!


I found that the SSE (the abbreviation for the title) was an excellent read. It made me, as a young black woman, think about my love life. The main characters in the novel are given the challenge to give up sex as single women. This seems like an easy enough challenge since the women are not married but they each discover that premarital sex (a sin by Christian doctrine) has deeper roots in their lives than one would think. Although this novel deals with some heavy themes, it is enjoyable because each of the characters goes through her own individual journey. The author makes us think about our lives without condemning. My only criticism is that the main protagonist Joan’s role as a single mother is not reflective of the typical single mother’s life and/or lifestyle.

If anyone, an individual or someone associated with a church group or youth group is looking for a springboard to start a discussion on premarital sex, this novel is a great place to start.

Mimi Jefferson, the author, is dedicated to making abstinence from premarital sex a movement rather than just a book. She holds a workshop in the Houston area which I have attended and enjoyed, along with hosting a Yahoo group. She also ministers during her travels around the country. For more info on the workshop or the Yahoo group, visit her site at http://www.mimijefferson.com/ and to purchase the book, visit her publisher’s site at www.urbanchristianonline.net.

On my latest trips to Barnes and Noble, I have looked for MORE books with the bottom logo, “THE FINEST IN URBAN CHRISTIAN FICTION.” I will be writing up reviews on several more titles from the same publisher in the next couple of days.

Novel Review: One L The Turbulent True Story of a First Year at Harvard Law School

My take on  One L The Turbulent True Story of a First Year at Harvard Law School by Scott Turlow

 One L is a popular book among entering law school students about the experiences of a One L (a first year law student) at Harvard University. Scott Turlow is an excellent writer and the book is certainly a page turner. This book DOES NOT read like a “how to” guide to law school. Instead, it is written as a memoir as Turlow looks back at his journal entries from his first year, which was many years ago. Although the law school experience has certainly changed (for example, Turlow had the choice of writing his exams on paper or using a typewriter, whereas now most law school students take their exams on computers) but the general spirit of competition, the anxiety felt by the students, the stress, and the rigor are still the same today. Any entering law school student who wants to understand the law school “experience” will greatly enjoy this book, but do not assume that law school is just as Turlow describes them. The main drawback is that the book is melodramatic, so do not take every word too seriously. Also, Turlow was married during law school, so he did not have to struggle financially and his dating life and social life only suffered slightly, which is not typical.

If you are looking for a law school “how to” try Insider’s Guide to Your First Year of Law School A Student-to-Student Handbook from a Law School Survivorby Justin Spiezman. It also read like a novel, but it is packed with lots of information about how to study, network, and look for a job.

Short Story Review: “Only Daughter” by Sandra Cisneros

“Only Daughter” is an ethnic short story about a young girl who is the only daughter in a family of 6 sons. The story begins with her childhood and how the daughter was unappreciated by her brothers who never play with her and her father who refers to her as one of his “siete ninos” or seven sons, even when he is speaking English he never bothers to correct the mistranslation. The daughter expresses her desire to go to college and the dad agrees because he hopes she will meet a man in college. She completes undergrad and grad school, still unmarried. Her father feels she has wasted her education. The narrator discusses how she was always writing for her father and people like him the “public majority disinterested in reading.” In the end, after she has been a professional writer for 10 years and her father has grown much more sickly, he reads one of her works that has been translated to Spanish (he could not read English) and enjoys it. In this way, he expresses that he is proud of her and the conflict between them is resolved.

This is a great story, but I would love to know the father’s point of view. He was trying to support nine people in foreign land and did not even read English. Anyone who has ever felt disconnected from their father would certainly enjoy this story.

Sandra Cisneros is also the author of House On Mango Street, which I am currently reading.  http://www.sandracisneros.com/

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