Her mission was to love the world. A Book Review
April 4, 2015
MISS IMOGENE WARE does not exist? Yet I know her well. Miss Imogene is the figment of Christina Carson’s imagination. Yet she’s as real as anyone I have ever met. Miss Imogene is the voice and the conscience of a mesmerizing new novel by Christina Carson, Accidents of Birth. Miss Imogene, a lowly and illiterate black housekeeper, leads us with one hesitant step after another through a turbulent time in the rural South.
The nation has at last been forced to recognize and accept a bitter fact that racism does exist.
It did not end with a Civil War.
It did not end with the South’s surrender at Appomattox.
Black is still separated from white.
Racism has been simmering for a long time.
Now it’s on the verge of exploding.
Trust has been abandoned.
Politics has divided the country.
And old wounds are torn open to bleed again.
In the midst of the turmoil, we find Miss Imogene, who was only ten years old when she went to work as a housekeeper with her mother in the fine home of a wealthy and self-serving Mississippi family.
It’s a rich home, perhaps.
It’s also an abusive one.
In Book One, Miss Imogene aligns herself with one of the children, Kate, who is a child prodigy, dreaming of escaping the confines of her home and running away to become a dancer.
Only Miss Imogene believes in her.
Only Miss Imogene is willing to help.
She can’t read.
She can’t write.
Yet, Miss Imogene possesses wisdom far beyond her years.
What she has to offer is something the home has never experienced before.
She brings hope.
She brings understanding.
She brings love.
Miss Imogene is the girl, then the lady, from the wrong side of the tracks. But make no mistake about it. Accidents of Birth is her story. And Christina Carson has given us one of the most endearing and enduring characters in today’s literature. You realize quickly that the only difference between rich and poor, learned and unlearned, is an accident of birth.
Miss Imogene’s sense of humor is the glue that holds her own family together. And when in doubt, when the turbulence of the times begin swirling around her, Miss Imogene dares to hold conversations with God as though he is nothing more than a next door neighbor. In her mind, he is. The conversations may be one-sided, but Miss Imogene finds solace in the answers she receives, even if she is the only one who can hear the Good Lord talking to her.
The voice of the novel belongs exclusively to Miss Imogene. She speaks in dialect, and Christina Carson is a master at writing the kind of African American dialect spoken throughout the South in the 1960s. It flows easily and smoothly like ripe honey off her tongue.
Miss Imogene’s performance is truly a tour de force. She is on stage for every major moment of the book. Christina Carson’s ability to make it all work is a testament to the genius of her writing.
The language is plain.
The language is compelling.
The lessons she hands us won’t be soon forgotten.
Miss Imogene’s work is to love the world, and you won’t be far into the novel until you find yourself loving her right back. Miss Imogene may well be the Huckleberry Finn of her time. She is certainly as unforgettable as he was.
Book one warms the heart.
It touches you deeply.
And here is the good news. Book Two carries on the story. Miss Imogene doesn’t leave you after only one novel. Spend a little time with her. It’ll be the best time of the day. She has more to say, and you’ll be glad you heard every word and understood every message she had to give you.