Nowhere Is A Place by Bernice McFadden is a multigenerational family story. It begins with Sherry, a woman who has seldom contact with her family until two relationships – one bad, one good – triggers a desire for self-reflection. This leads to a journey with her mother, Dumpling, across the country to a family reunion. During their journey, Sherry shares her desire to write a story about their family history. The story then goes back and forth between Sherry and Dumplings present day reconnection to Sherry’s book in progress of their Native American and Southern roots.
The story did not click for me at first. Mostly because the two stories didn’t naturally mesh with each other. The present day story is told in the first point of view while the past story is told in the third person. Often times scene changes between the two came off abrupt and sudden; lessening the attachment to the present characters like Sherry and Dumpling and past characters like Brother, Suce, Lovely. But if readers stay with the story to the end he/she will find like me an intricate narrative that deals with slavery, sexual abuse, and freedom coming together in the end.
Bernice’s writing style has the ability to draw deep into a word to show layers of a particular moment. Her sentences are varied. Her characters are complex. And she does a good job at giving her characters’ distinct voices.
Nowhere Is A Place was inspired by Bernice McFadden’s own genealogical research. If you’re curious about what to do with your own genealogical research take note. As someone who studies family history, Nowhere Is A Place provides one way to tell my families’ story.
If you’re the type of person who wants a simple story leave this book alone. But if you like to see an author push a narrative that goes beyond love and loss to show tragedy and rebirth check this sister out.
Rashaun J. Allen (@rashaunjallen) is an MFA in Creative Writing and Literature candidate at SUNY Stony Brook, where he is working on Christine’s Dream – A Memoir of Love, Loss & Life. He is the author of A Walk Through Brooklyn & In The Moment and has been featured in The South Hampton Review. Find more of his work at www.rashaunjallen.com