Working Mothers 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.

“Sister Day”

Dr. Maxine Thompson

In Honor of Women’s month, I am devoting this blog to “Sister Day.”

As working women, we tend to wear ourselves out, burning the candle on both ends. We work all day. Come home and continue the second shift, dealing with our families. Eventually, something breaks down, if you don’t take care of yourself.

As many of you know, I worked for 23 years as a social worker in a high stress environment, first in the inner city of Detroit, then in the inner city (hood) of Los Angeles. I often became burnt out. Due to health problems and other reasons, I left the job in 1997. In 1998, I started Maxine Thompson’s Literary Services and began editing for other writers.

Unfortunately, I took the same bad habits of over work into this new venture. Even being self-employed as an editor, ghostwriter, writer and literary agent, I found the same burnout and crashing from overwork. It really boiled down to not having balance.

Things changed when my late, older sister, Nancy, moved back to Los Angeles in 2002. She was always a free spirit and knew how to enjoy life. Over the next year, we established what we called “Sister Day.” On “Sister Day,” we relaxed and connected. She would take down my braids, (that’s before I started my dread locks). I’d fry shrimps, and she’d make the salad and soup. We would watch old movies on videos and take the day off. I noticed after “Sister Day,” I would get just as much work done, if not more.

This ritual continued from 2002, to the first of January of 2008. That particular afternoon, I noticed Nancy was short of breath and couldn’t stand for long as she tried to chop up the vegetables. A dark cloud came over me. I called my younger sister, Sonya, who later told me, “I knew something was wrong, when you started crying. We know you’re strong.” She and my sister’s daughter, Denise, flew to California right away. Within a whirlwind 6 weeks, my sister was diagnosed with a blood clot in her lung, then was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer. Subsequently, we set up a hospital bed in her apartment, started hospice with visiting nurses and social workers, but she passed anyhow on February 11, 2008. At the time, I was devastated and grief stricken. I wrote my novel, LA Blues, (2011) to examine how grief shapes and turns our life upside down.

But with time, I healed. Now, I look back with fond memories and gratitude to Nancy and “Sister Day.” It served several purposes. One, it helped cement our bond as adults who truly enjoyed one another’s company. We already had shared memories from our childhood, which I captured in my first novel, The Ebony Tree.

Over those 6 years, Nancy had traveled with me to conferences all over the United States, and had even flown to China on a business trip. But, on a deeper level, “Sister Day” also helped to replenish and restore our souls.

From this I learned something. Women need sisterhood, whether it’s church family, a book club, a writers group, close friends, or biological sisters. These are just some tips I learned that have sustained me as a working freelance writer/novelist/author/ghostwriter/editor/literary agent.

Take down time from work or you will wind up flat on your back physically or emotionally.

Have a spiritual relationship with God.

Connect with other people. (For women, this is where “Sister Day” can be particularly healing.)

Find ways to protect yourself.




Do morning pages. (Read Julia Cameron’s The Artist Way.)

Do your gratitude list.

Restore your soul.

So let’s establish a sister day. Maybe even have a National Sister Day. It can be restorative. It can regenerate your creativity. It can build memories and close bonds. Just having good friends (or sisters) can make life worth living.

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