Review: “Truth Like Oil”

By Connie Biewald

Preorder now, publication date of May 25, 2021

I fell in love with Nadine Antoine on the first page of Connie Biewald’s Truth Like Oil, a sentiment that only grew stronger the deeper I sank into the story of an immigrant mother’s plight to keep her two young adult sons on the straight-and-narrow in a foreign culture. Just watching the exhausted Nadine climb the stairs of her apartment building in Cambridge, MA, after her long shift as a nurse’s aide, I knew immediately she’s a woman who will do anything for her two sons, one a senior in high school and the other a freshman in college. Moreover, Nadine does so without the warmth and loving support of the family and friends she left behind in Haiti, which she fled in her teens due to the actions of a lascivious uncle. Though Nadine is better off financially in the US, she’s emotionally and spiritually isolated and feels she has no one to consult when her youngest son, Chance, edges toward the life of a street criminal. And though her older son, Henry, is the vision of young man on his way to an upwardly-mobile life, he struggles in isolation similar to that of his mother, caused by being one of the few black students in the elite Midwestern university that offered him a scholarship. Her sons’ escalating angst forces Nadine to look to others for help. The author’s ability to interweave conflicting cultures; portray a mother’s willingness to do anything to save her kids; and build two unlikely friendships that arise when Nadine cares for a white woman recovering from a stroke: all make this a story one to savor like the “bannann peze,” or fried plantains, Nadine makes for her sons. View all my reviews

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