Many Roads - Book Review
Many Roads is the first novel from author BlackPearl, published in November 2015. Before that BlackPearl had published a collection of poems entitled The Heart of a BlackPearl.
Many Roads follows the journey five characters whose lives are all intertwined in various ways. The reader unravels why the characters are in the various situations laid out at the start of the book, enabled by a jump back in time. Once that's understood the reader is brought back to the present to see how it all comes together and resolves. I felt this format worked well and BlackPearl created enough questions in the initial part of the story that when it jumped back I wanted to find answers.
The blurb and introduction make it clear there is a religious tone to this story. But don't let that put you off. Religious isn't my usual thing when it comes to reading fiction, especially if it comes across as a little preachy, which wasn't the case here. I really did get on okay with this. The religious links in the book were subtle enough to not overpower the story. And the content was far from the straight and narrow. Some of it might actually shock you a little.
I found the story between Jazz and Uberto moving. Their story is a young love that fell apart but is now possibly headed toward reunification. I'm a sucker for a happy ending when it comes to people who seem to be supposed to be together. But Jazz is dating the biggest dealer and nightclub owner in town, Shawn. And Shawn doesn't have it together either. Despite thinking he's found the perfect woman in Jazz, he's no more faithful than her, as he's screwing his secretary.
Eva is Uberto's sister, best friends with Jazz, and another of the characters I was rooting for. She's pretty downtrodden, especially after her brother left her to fend for herself when he headed off for the Marines. Eva is with Sam, who was abused as a child just like her. He also worked as a gigolo, and later became a dealer. Their relationship is on the rocks after Eva stole his stash to make some money, resulting in him beating her down pretty good. As much as I wanted this relationship to work out too, because of their history and child they had together, there didn't seem to be a chance. Sam may have been in love with Eva once but he's also got a piece of ass on the side. Not to mention he's also lusting after his cellmate, Vic, who just got out of jail. And Vic is loco, determined to please Sam no matter the cost.
Part of me felt a little overwhelmed by the number of things going on. A few times I had to take a couple of seconds to remember exactly which horrible thing had happened to which character. I liked the intertwined nature of everything. I can't help but wonder, though, if a story focused primarily on fewer characters could have been even more compelling. At times I felt I'd reached saturation point and this left me struggling to empathise with all of the characters as much as I could have.
There were a few areas where speech punctuation needed improvement. However, BlackPearl has a natural voice to her writing, whichever character point of view she's writing from. It felt authentic, just like her characters. I particularly enjoyed this. And even some of the most explicit scenes flowed naturally on the page. Her writing weaves compassion with grit, and I liked that too.
I rate Many Roads as 3 stars. This was a great debut for BlackPearl and I look forward to reading her next title.