Review Blog

Mar 06 2019

What Momma left me by Renee Watson

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Bloomsbury, 2019. ISBN: 9781681199498.
(Age: 12+) Recommended. Themes: Family, Domestic violence. Originally published in 2010, Newbery Honor Award winning author Renee Watson's newest UK edition of What Momma Left Me, seeks to uplift another generation of YA readers with a contemporary cover.
Serenity and her younger brother Danny lose both parents as a consequence of domestic violence. Serenity begins journaling her healing in the home of their maternal grandparents. A new start in a new community forces them to look outside themselves to develop symbiotic relationships with wider family, parishioners, students and hardest of all - professional counsellors. Serenity uses her epiphanies to help her new friend, Maria, having learned that little good comes of secrets. Danny's catharsis comes only after further tragedy but to some degree from realizing that materialism cannot fill that dark hollow of human despair, from which no one is immune.
Serenity crushes on Jay, who is somewhat of a rough diamond, but stays focused on her school work and writing. Every chapter explores both a line of scripture and a poetry device from her first period Poetry class, to be learned and applied. The last chapter called 'Amen' begins with an Ode. Serenity's naive ode to a Red Velvet Cake is an important metaphor and specially blended Mother's Day surprise for her Grandmother. Readers are treated to the recipe in the end papers.
Both Danny and Serenity falter but their family, faith and community, reconnect them to bittersweet memories and dispel their fears that they are not destined to repeat the same cycles of violence. The novel arrives full circle back to the scripture that sustains Serenity on the day of her mother's murder.
This is a book centred on grief, but certainly refuting the metaphor that the disease of domestic violence is either inherited or chronic.
Deborah Robins

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