Some of y’all may remember that Sadeqa Johnson’s Yellow Wife was one of my top reads of 2021. (If you haven’t read it yet, you really should.) Johnson’s follow-up novel, The House of Eve (Simon & Schuster 2023) is just as poignant. The novel will be out 7 Feb 2023, and I highly recommend you get your pre-order in. (A huge thanks to the publisher for sending me this advanced copy!)
Set in the 1950s, the novel explores the two very different (but rather similar) lives of Eleanor and Ruby, two women whose journeys cross tracks in unexpected ways.
Ruby is a high school student in Philadelphia, clawing her way through the We Rise program and praying she’s one of the ones selected for a scholarship. Born to a teenager, Ruby didn’t know her grandmother wasn’t her actual mother until her grandmother becomes unable to care for her anymore and sends her to her mother. Ruby never fully connects with her mother, who sees her as a rival, and she ends up living with her aunt, a woman who dresses like a man, loves who she wants, and takes no shit from anyone; and a woman who loves her fiercely. Ruby falls in love with a local Jewish boy. And then Ruby becomes pregnant.
Eleanor is studying to be an archivist at Howard University. She grew up just outside of Cleveland to hardworking parents who pinched and saved to get her to college. While there, she falls in love with William, a light-skinned med student from a very affluent DC family. William’s mother, Rose, is not too keen on her son’s love interest – Rose thinks Eleanor is too dark and “from the wrong side of the tracks.” And then Eleanor becomes pregnant.
The choices these two women make and the options available to them based on affluence and privilege does echo with some themes found in Yellow Wife. I wrote the following in my review of Yellow Wife:
“Based loosely on historical events, Yellow Wife is about the parts of life that are neither black nor white, neither right nor wrong. It’s about a shared history and the contradictions of human nature. More importantly, it’s about survival, family, and the choices we make.”
This also rings true of The House of Eve, and Pheby, the heroine of Yellow Wife, even gets a mention in this work.
Read this book.