Memphis by Tara M. Stringfellow – Book review

What a heart-soaring, gut-punching read Memphis is! Yes, named for the place it’s set, this is a generational tale of a family of charismatic women: Hazel, Miriam, August, Joan and Mya. You feel the warmth and pain of America’s deep south coming from the pages and get completely engrossed in the lives of these remarkable women.

Opening sentence: The house looked living.

The spirit of Memphis

The chapters move between each woman across a range of 20th century timeframes spanning around 70 years. Joan felt like more of a lead character to me, from childhood trauma we see her grow into a character that you genuinely care about. There are some high-drama moments as the family face racism, violence and a tragic event within the confines of their own family home.

I understood then why the first sin on this earth had been a murder. Among kin.

But, there is also happiness, loyalty and dreams. What Memphis does so well is capture the volatile nature of life and scatter both sides of the emotional spectrum through the read to make sure you keep turning those pages.

Family bonds and heritage

The strong family ties are the heart of this book. I was rooting for Joan and loved discovering more of her history and what made her who she is.

That morning, she thought she could smell Memphis – a waft of familiar perfume in a crowded restaurant.

At times Memphis was a hard-hitting read but overall it had such a lyrical feel that you were hooked. It sets its generational story against the backdrop of key moments in American history and when novels do this, I find it really helps to add authenticity to the story and make the characters seem so real. I mean, the excellent writing also plays a part in that – and the words just flow wonderfully from the page here.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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