Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Review: The Residue Years by Mitchell S. Jackson

The Residue Years is the gripping debut novel by Mitchell S. Jackson that explores the depths one will go to in order to make their family whole again. We are introduced to Champ and Grace through their narrated alternate chapters. Grace is fresh out of rehab and trying to remain sober. Her reason for being sober is to someday get her two younger sons back. Champ has the same idea in mind of getting his family together again by way of buying back the only home they have ever lived in together.

The Residue Years is a difficult book to review because it has many themes and issues it brings to light. Mitchell S. Jackson brilliantly expresses the plight of many urban families that try and try to do their best(even if by less than legal means) and still never seem to get anywhere. It is evident during Champ's chapters that he is intelligent and is even teased as being a college boy. His goal of getting a house leads him on a path that is foreshadowed in the beginning of the novel. Although I knew where his profession as a drug-dealer would lead him, I needed to find out how. 

Grace is as equally intriguing as her son Champ is. By using first-person Jackson is able to really allow readers insight to her thought processes. We can truly understand her struggle with staying straight and what it means for her if she fails. I wanted so much for her to do well and overcome her obstacles and really redeem herself as a mother. 

On many levels, although the characters are in an urban setting, their goals are not unlike others all across America. It's a pretty universal idea to want a family that's together living in a home that is their own. For Champ, owning this house means so much. Enough so that he risks his future to obtain it. In a world full of broken dreams, absent parents, systematic racial profiling, and no hopes of ever escaping (unless you can hoop), these two dared to dream.

Because this is written in the first-person there are moments where scenes can seem a little disjointed and this would be my only gripe. Because of how richly drawn both Champ and Grace are, I couldn't help but continue forward even when I felt I was missing something crucial that I couldn't quite put my finger on. Eventually the author's writing style became familiar enough that I didn't notice so much there were no parentheses.

Overall, The Residue Years is a story of redemption, love, family, and the choices we make that affect the ones we love the most. If someone is looking for a novel with a cliche ending that promises butterflies, rainbows, and unicorns this is not the book for you. I really enjoyed this novel and will patiently wait for what's next from Mitchell S. Jackson.   ****

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