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Book review: ‘One Blood: A Novel’ by Denene Millner

More by this author

One drop.

That’s all they said it took to determine someone’s race. Just one drop, the tiniest of amounts, and everything changed: no access, no rights, no cold drink from a fountain on a hot day, no freedoms. No safety. No say in the matter. And in the new novel, “One Blood” by Denene Millner, no way to change it, but time.

The first night Grace saw her Maw Maw catch a baby, she had a mess of feelings: a little sick, scared, but mostly awed at what Maw Maw called a miracle. Grace was small then, but she paid attention. One day, Maw Maw promised, Grace would be the one catching babies.

Just days after her own mother died, though, the sheriff came for Maw Maw, who’d falsified a birth certificate to protect a newborn from a white man not its father. The sheriff beat Maw Maw and dragged her off, and Grace was spirited away north to Brooklyn, to safety, to be cared for by an Auntie who didn’t want her.

Hattie made no bones about that.

She treated Grace no better than a common maid, and she warned that a country gal like Grace had no business in Brooklyn society. Hattie didn’t want the embarrassment of an illegitimate child around, either, and so when Grace got pregnant, Hattie tricked her into losing her baby to adoption.

Lolo never told Tommy the truth because she knew he wanted children.

She’d been terribly mutilated down there when she was younger, so she let him think he was the cause of their infertility. She didn’t want children anyhow, but she became a mother with the adoption of a boy first, then a girl, and she didn’t tell either of her children.

On a sunny day when she was thirteen, Rae learned a truth about herself, and she kept it close. She loved her mother, she appreciated Lolo’s sacrifices and didn’t want to hurt her. But as she grew into a woman with the same troubles she’d seen in her mother’s life, Rae wondered where her blood came from…

Here’s some advice: if you’re not completely immersed in “One Blood” by page ten, you might want to get yourself checked out. There could be something wrong with you.

Covering just a matter of decades, author Denene Millner introduces readers to a family of women, each of whom leave an unknown legacy for the next generation. They do it while dealing with the issues of the day, racism, violence, classism, and infidelity, and with a little help from the ethereal connection they share – all of which dip and soar throughout this four-part tale. Millner is a great teller, sharing each woman’s story with brutal reality, the kind that can shock you emotionless, but also with a lightness that feels like skipping.

It’s a mix you can’t miss.

Readers who want a novel that includes a little bit of last-century history and current events will eat this book up. “One Blood” is a book you’ll drop everything to read.

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