My Awfully Wedded Husband
by Minerva Stewart
Of all the ties that work to bind humanity together, the threads that weave sisterhood are among the most complex and beautiful. The tapestry that can be drawn amongst the bonds between women carry with them a depth the likes of which men have continually struggled to understand and can oftentimes find impossible to penetrate – and that’s the point, isn’t it?
Sisterhood is an artifact of a special and mysterious design. It’s been an intricate and integral part of the history of women, providing a safe haven and a soft place to land since the dawn of time. Where sisterly friendship was once celebrated in conservative quietness near a warm hearth over steaming cups of tea, it is now immortalized over pink cocktails in the crowded comforts of a fashionable lounge (six-inch heels optional, but encouraged).
There are layers to sisterhood, just as there are layers to the many dimensions of women. Each one is set precariously on top of the other like the carefully crafted flavors of a complicated cake. Some are dense and some are forever binding, and for four sorority sisters – they are layers that will sustain them through the many facets and realities of adulthood. Women are complex creatures for a reason – it’s a matter of survival.
Jocelyn, the social climber … or so everyone sees her. She chooses to see herself another way, as a woman simply using the tools God gave her to manipulate her way into the life she’s always seen for herself. What’s so wrong with wanting more to life than to just be average? When Jocelyn met Herschel in college, she saw in him more than just a handsome and charming big-man-on-campus. She saw an opportunity. She saw a way to carve out a life among the elite and privileged. She saw the life she deserved.
What Jocelyn didn’t plan on was Herschel eventually moving on without her. As she transitioned from young college girl into a refined woman of the world, Jocelyn’s husband remained much the same. Sure, his career took off and he became an established and well-respected man in politics, but his mindset never matured. Herschel believed he could continue to sleep around, do as he pleased, and forever not have to answer to anyone. For Herschel, divorcing Jocelyn was nothing more than upgrading his wife from a cloudy diamond to a clear one. It wasn’t any different from trading in last year’s model sports car to the latest and greatest. But what Herschel didn’t realize was that the older model eventually became something even more valuable … it became a coveted classic.
Jocelyn did the only thing she knew how to do … she rallied and threw money at the problem. From the moment Jocelyn met Herschel, she knew two things could always hold his attention – her youthful body and money in the bank. Pulling both assets together and settling in for an extended stay after a significant surgery to tighten and enlighten, Jocelyn calls on her sorority sisters and their long-sworn support.
When the ladies come together for the first time in decades, they are shocked into a reality the likes of which they never imagined possible.
It’s hard to look at yourself in the mirror and see what’s actually there, instead of the facade you’ve been focused on showing the world. Jocelyn held the looking glass up to all three of her closest friends, helping to shed light on the things they must now face – together.
Mariah, the military brat … well, that’s how she grew up. Rules and regulations, early morning and beds made with hospital corners. She’s always been a flawless piece of cut glass … dazzling and full of beautiful reflection, but deadly and sharp if you get too close to the corners. She knows no other way but than to be steadfast and ambitious, and she’s not afraid of the hard work that comes with success. When she ran into Clifton Ash at a sex club, Mariah didn’t know what to think. He wasn’t her usual type, he wasn’t even all that attractive … and the outfit he had on left him looking more like a farcical Liberace than Idris Elba. But he had kind eyes and a modicum of manners … and there was something about him that she couldn’t keep out of her mind.
It didn’t take long for the two to become man and wife, and before the ink was dry, Mariah embarked upon the adventure of a lifetime with her new husband in tow. Instead of birthing babies, she followed the steady hum in her blood and birthed a business. Mariah became the mother to a formidable music agency, full to the brimming with creative talents and lucrative ideas. It was the one thing she was proud of in life, her marriage notwithstanding.
In the true sense of the word – all that glitters is definitely not gold – and Clifton had a wandering eye. Mariah let him look all he wanted. With her mind on being a boss, she just couldn’t find the energy to care about the myriad affairs Clifton dallied in – until the woman he chose to hunker down with was a little too close for comfort … not to mention the hussy was driving the car Mariah paid for.
The latest affair wasn’t what set the ship burning, but it was the final blow. What Mariah did not expect was Clifton trying to push her out not only from their marriage, but from the business she built from the ground up. But if Mariah learned anything from being a military brat, it was that you can’t be afraid of going to war.
Vanessa, the beauty queen … she’s always been the epitome of loyalty. She learned it from her Mama, a woman who stood by her husband during his long incarceration. Vanessa’s mother always made the best of every bad situation; a potted bunch of lavender in a windowsill of their cramped apartment or a kind and encouraging word uttered while in the midst of a particularly troublesome time. Perseverance was the name of the game, and Vanessa was a master at it.
She took pride in her beauty, using it as leverage and winning pageant after pageant, earning enough money to get her Mama out of the cramped apartment in the wrong part of town and then subsidizing the bills rolling in from the Alzheimers facility she eventually had to move her mother in to. Vanessa was proud of her poise and her elegance, and it didn’t take long before men began to notice her in the ways that mattered. For Vanessa, it was always Fred … even if she didn’t make it so easy for him. She knew the games it took to hook a man to your side for keeps, and no one played it better than Vanessa.
They married and became parents young, and Fred took his talents on the football field all the way to the NFL and beyond, earning a coveted role as a commentator. But unfortunately for Vanessa, sometimes men in positions of power don’t realize that the grass is truly only green where you water it. When Fred set his sights on that young redheaded gold-digger and served Vanessa with divorce papers, she found herself in a panic for probably the first time in her life. The prenup is iron-clad and would leave her with next to nothing, and it didn’t take long for Vanessa to realize that the assets that earned her so much fame and fortune in her 20’s weren’t going to do much for her in her 40’s.
After seeing Jocelyn laying there in that recovery room, bandaged head to toe from thousands of dollars worth of plastic surgery in a vain attempt to save her crumbling marriage, Vanessa vowed to try and find a better way to get what she needs and deserves. Vanessa finds herself in the fight of her life … against the love of her life.
Toni is God’s daughter … and she’ll never let anyone forget it. Born and raised in the church and bred by the verses of the Bible, Toni has never wanted too much out of life. She’s a simple woman. She wants happiness, financial stability, a good man to be a good wife to, and a baker’s delight of a kitchen. Toni has always been a bigger girl, more curve than angle, and for the most part, she’s okay with it. Any girl can be a size 2 if she doesn’t eat, and Toni has never believed in starving herself.
She’s giving – to a fault. The man in her life has been there for more than 7 years and no matter how she tries to push, Toni can’t seem to get him to commit to a wedding date. Trey cemented himself to her like royal icing on a gingerbread house and can’t seem to see far enough in the future past lunch time. Where Toni owns her own bakery and works hard at it every day, Trey seems to float through life on nothing more than empty promises, a cloud of marijuana smoke, and the enabling of his meddlesome mother.
Toni should have seen the light when she had to buy her own engagement ring. She should have put her foot down when Trey started skimming cash from her register to pay for his pot. She should have put boundaries on his rude mother and she should have demanded that Trey meet her halfway. But she didn’t, and Toni is afraid that if she starts now, she might lose Trey. It’s hard for a woman like her to find a man … shouldn’t she just be grateful and take what she can get, no matter how he treats her?
When the three sorority sisters pull together to help Jocelyn come to grips with her pain, something will shift for each of them. Sisterhood is meant to last a lifetime, and for these four women, the bonds will be tested and found to hold true – but there will be some casualties along the way.
In the spirit of Connie Briscoe’s Sisters & Lovers and Sheneska Jackson’s stunning novel Blessings, Stewart has cooked up a plot that weaves itself in and out of the past, following women as they transition from young ladies into mature women, all done in a frank and honest fashion.
I started this book with a little bit of spare time at the end of a Friday evening, after a long week. It was already past ten and I was exhausted from running errands and cooking dinner, from negotiating with a two-year old on his bedtime and dealing with the hormonal imbalances of my two teenagers. I poured myself a glass of red wine and snagged the last bit of chocolate in my hidden stash, and climbed in to bed. I figured I’d read a few pages while I polished off the wine and chocolate in the only bit of quiet time I’d had all damn day, then fall into a deep sleep and wake up to do it all over again.
What I didn’t anticipate was the voice of this book. The first chapter turned into three, four, and then before I knew it I was halfway through the book and it was well after the witching hour. I could hardly put it down.
Stewart’s voice is honest, yes … but it’s more than that. It was raw. It was real. I could see myself in each of the women, and I could see each of the women in my closest girlfriends. The humor was more than just a funny scene here or there – it was drawn from the real life of women and the things they go through in their relationships. The struggles and the heartbreak of trying to stay relevant in your man’s life as you support him through his growth and put your dreams and wishes to the side … man, it hit like a ton of bricks (the wine didn’t help). It was like the author took my first marriage and laid it bare across the pages of this novel, showing me the mistakes before I made them, but then showing me how brave I was to get out of it.
I couldn’t decide which woman I liked best … well, maybe it was Toni. I wanted to give her a hug. I wanted to be enveloped in her scent of cinnamon and sugar and tell her that there is nothing wrong with being who you are as long as you know your worth. I was so happy that she had the other women in her life and that they guided her (not so gently, but hilariously) to the path that was right for her. And I was beyond ecstatic to see her standing in her own truth at the end. I married a Muslim man myself, if that tells you anything.
The relationships in the periphery stood out for me, as well. Jocelyn and the awe she had of her mother-in-law. Vanessa and her unique relationship with her daughter, the struggle of navigating the messiness of raising a teenage girl in the midst of divorce (hello, been there – still doing that). Toni’s tenderness and acceptance of her bakery employee.
Stewart captured the essence of each woman she wrote about, their voices were strong and believable and relatable. Women should be able to open a book and find their lives embedded there, and Stewart hit the mark. Not every story ends with a happy ending, and sometimes the princess can save herself. It was an enjoyable story with a fast pace and subtle humor that was relevant to the plot. I have to give it five out of five stars … I just loved it that much. It took me less than 24 hours to devour this book; I tore into it like I would one of Toni’s famous pies.