“We didn’t believe it when we first heard because you know how church folk can gossip.”

This is how Brit Bennett begins this emotionally evocative debut novel set within a contemporary black community in Southern California. A bildungsroman that explores love, teen sexuality, community, and religion.  

This book centers on the coming-of-age journey of three teenagers: Nadia, Luke, and Aubrey. All the trios’ lives intertwined, set in opposition to each other by their community. Their lives are marked by trauma of a dead mother, absent mother and a lost football career.

Nadia Turner, a seventeen year old lady grieves the death of her mother who committed suicide. Nadia while grieving meets Luke; pastor’s son with a promising football career cut short by an injury. Their grief creates an emotional connection that leads to a pregnancy. Nadia who is ambitious seeks to have an abortion and being a teenager with no money and Luke with no sustainable income, seeks the help of his parents who choose to protect their image and that of the church by providing him the money, discreetly. 

Nadia tries to move on with her life after the abortion. After winning a scholarship to the University of Michigan, she escapes to college to find peace with academics. Immersed herself with activities so she could forget about her past. After staying away for so many years, the news of her father’s accident brought her back to the community she tried so hard to avoid. While taking care of her father, she tries to find closure with Luke and answers to why her mother committed suicide. 

Aubrey and Nadia are best friends drawn together by the absence of motherhood. While Nadia is hedonistic and academically inclined, Aubrey is pious and family-oriented. When Nadia is away at college,  Aubrey falls for Luke and accepts his marriage proposal.

Will Nadia expose the secret between her and Luke? What will happen if Aubrey finds out about Nadia and Luke? Will soft-hearted Aubrey continue with the wedding? One thing is certain, Nadia’s return to her home opens up old wounds and threatens to expose buried secrets.

In this novel, Bennett finds a way to balance salient topics such as feminism, religion, and black experience. The novel also projects the message about what is expected of black women in a system that’s favorable to men and the cause and effect of whatever actions they embark on.

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