Survivor's Guilt Archives

Book Review

Two-Sided Heart: Novel

By Patricia Anne Phillips

Reviewed by Dr. Maxine Thompson

Stories of twins separated at birth have been around for many years. But Patricia Anne Phillips’ novel, Two-Sided Heart, has a fresh twist. This is a multi-layered, intergenerational gem of a story.

The story opens on the day of Elvis Presley’s death, August 16, 1977. This is a great historical marker, because on the day of Presley’s death, the world mourned this rock n’ roll icon as it was the end of an era. His cultural impact was one that combined African American music, country music, and blues. Elvis Presley represented the beginning of more integration of Blacks and whites through music, which also is reflected in this storyline.

Ironically, on the date of Elvis Presley’s death, Leah Mann, the protagonist, goes into labor and prematurely gives birth to twin daughters, one Black and one white.

Today, we see these stories on the Internet, where there is a white parent and a black parent, who, through a genetic chance occurrence, give birth to twin babies exhibiting two different colors. One child looks white, the other twin looks black.

In this case, Leah sees her babies, whom she falls in love with right away. Although both babies are biracial, you could only tell it in one baby. One baby is white, and the other baby is tan—clearly destined to be a Black child.

The problem is Randal, Leah’s husband, is white, and she is Creole. Although her husband knew of Leah’s Black DNA when he married her, he hadn’t minded because she looked white. He met her in New Orleans, where mixed races are common. After their marriage, all his friends assumed Leah was white.

However, Randal hadn’t thought about the possibility of the Black genetics showing up when they gave birth to their set of twins. This may have not been as important in today’s society. Unfortunately, this took place during a social period in history when Interracial dating and marriage were still taboo.

Initially, the father let his displeasure be known to Leah. He even expressed regret in marrying her, although he had loved her. Then, when Leah is released from the hospital with the white looking baby, Brooklyn, Randal seems to have a change of heart. The Black baby, Leanne, was left behind in the hospital to gain weight. The husband told Leah that the baby had a weak heart. In a rash movement, her husband gave the Black twin up for adoption, but told his wife that the baby had died. Because he was going through bankruptcy, he thought the money he received for the baby would save him. His guilt, combined with his financial difficulties, were too much to handle, and he committed suicide when the remaining twin, Brooklyn, was only a month old.

Leah, whose husband has been the main support of the family, is left alone to fend for herself with her baby girl, Brooklyn. In addition, she finds out Leanne, the baby she is mourning, is not dead, but that the husband has given the baby away, so her grief is compounded. But, she has to figure out a way to make a living, so her search for her daughter is superseded by her need to feed her remaining twin and herself.

Thus, begins two separate journeys for the twin girls. Needless to say, the white twin, Brooklyn, has the luck of the draw. She appears white, and she has her mother’s undying love. On the other hand, Leanne, who began life rejected by her father, seemed to have a good start with what appeared to be a good adoptive Black family. But in a twist of fate, the truth came out about her adoptive family, and Leanne wounded up being orphaned and having to stay with unrelated, uncaring relatives.

This is a story of a mother’s deep abiding love and her great courage to rebuild her life. I loved this story because it is a page turner, yet it is relatable. With business elements, romance, suspense, and finally a surprising climax, this will keep the reader glued to the page, waiting to see what will happen next.

This is a tale of what it is to be marginalized by race in this country. Yet, this is a story of redemption. Race is still the number one issue woven into the tapestry of this country, and this is a timely story.

5.0 out of 5 stars Smart and beautiful

By Amazon Customer on August 23, 2016

Format: Audible Audio Edition Verified Purchase

This is a compelling novella about one woman’s unrelenting drive to rise again after a horrific tragedy. Before the violent act at the heart of the novella, Capri’s life is spinning out of control. Her business and her marriage are crumbling. When an act of violence derails her life even more, she must choose whether to give up or fight to live again. Smart and beautiful, she will try to regain her life one step at time.

Thompson has a strong knack for scene setting, telling details, characterization, plot and narrative tension. You really feel for Capri and want her to succeed. The prose dazzles. It’s muscular and poetic and psychologically precise. Check out this eye-opening description of Pasadena when Capri is released from the hospital and goes to live with a friend:

“Pasadena is such a somnolent town, it’s hard to believe it’s so near the hustle and bustle of L.A., yet so far removed. I always think of it as the town of the Rose Bowl Parade. Through the haze, you can see the San Gabriel Mountains looming in the distance. Lovely jacarandas light up the streets like lavender lanterns, and poplar, elm, and palm trees line the street on both sides, forming a tunnel. The smell of chicory fills the air. Squirrels scamper between the trees and even come up to the houses.”

I’ve never been to Pasadena, but thanks to Thompson I felt like I was there after reading that description.

And this is Capri’s impression of the Inglewood Cemetery she visits for the first time to pay respect to her fallen friends:

“Finally, I arrive at the Inglewood Cemetery, which almost looks like a park, the landscaping is so beautiful. It’s graced by sloping hills and winding drives, speckled with spruce, pines, and palm trees. However, there’s a somber atmosphere here— as though the dead are whispering on the wind.”

This novella will restore your faith in the power of the human spirit.
Reviewed by Rayon


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