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Accident of Birth.

Accident of Birth by Heather Neff Harlem Moon/Broadway Books, November 2004 $12.95, ISBN 0-767-91751-0

Neff's third novel proves her talent as a gifted storyteller. Accident of Birth's Reba Freeman is living in two worlds: She is basking in the luxury of a big house, top job, perfect daughter, and the love but yet unfaithfulness of her second husband. She reminisces about her past, allowing the memories of living in Liberia to nag and taunt her.

"It's not the usual chick lit. I call it a vacation novel that challenges the readers," Neff said in an interview.

The plot centers on Reba's first romantic interest, Joseph Thomas. "Typically, women hang on to the fantasy of the first love, looking at it as the romantic ideal", Neff pointed out, playing the "what if" possibility to the max in her story line until Reba becomes obsessed.

In order to save her current marriage to Carl, she must first reconcile what she had with Joseph. Loving Joseph, an African, meant committing to his culture, whereas Reba wanted the man. Another standout in the book is Marisa, Reba's daughter, who urges her mother to find her "first love."

Neff admits that her theme is intended to appeal across generations. "The novice (in love) versus the experienced woman--compare her dreams at 20 to what she has at 40," she said.

The book is about leaving our comfort zone to think about the lives of black people outside of our country. Neff, a professor of literatures in the African Diaspora at Eastern Michigan State, filters in current events, drawing a picture so clear that the modern-day civil war in Liberia becomes our own. The scenes are unpredictable and so are the characters where the good guys aren't angels and the bad guys tempt sainthood. The best part is where there's a hint of Carl and Reba falling in love again.

Accident of Birth is engaging, an unraveling mystery until the end, compelling the story to linger after the last word fades. The book does have a few instances where harsh profanity sneaks into the dialogue, otherwise, it's a Grated reading.

Pat L. Simmons is a news writer and assignment editor for a CBS station in St. Louis, as well as the community events coordinator for Books-a-Million.
COPYRIGHT 2004 Cox, Matthews & Associates
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Copyright 2004, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Simmons, Pat L.
Publication:Black Issues Book Review
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Nov 1, 2004
Words:381
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