E. 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.