I've said it before, but it bears repeating. Bernice McFadden sure can tell a tale. Sitting at her father, Hy-Lo's, bedside, Kenzie reminisces on her childhood and once she starts, there's no way you can put the book down until she finishes. Through her flashbacks you learn that the mother that used to protect her and her brother became an alcoholic and that Kenzie, herself, is a recovering alcoholic, continuing the cycle that started with her paternal grandmother. Hy-Lo gets his nasty spirit honestly from his mother, a woman that would turn her back on her fleeing daughter-in-law and grandchildren in their time of need.
The bright spot in Kenzie's world is her maternal grandmother. Escaping to Mable's house is a welcome respite from the verbal and emotional abuse Kenzie deals with at home, but her mother, Delia, is never strong enough to keep Hy-Lo at bay. In a way, it reminded me of people that commit suicide, but feel the need to take someone else with them. Instead of Delia recognizing and putting her children's happiness ahead of Hy-Lo's and allowing them to stay with Mable, she took them back each and every time, as if to say, "If I'm going to suffer, you're going to suffer too." It's Mable who eventually gives Kenzie the tools to escape her parents, but with an already shattered foundation, Kenzie is set up to fail and repeat the cycle herself.
One of the things I found quite interesting was that Kenzie was angry with her father, but not her mother. Her father was the abuser, but her mother was the enabler. Perhaps Kenzie had already made peace with her mother, but their conversations as adults seemed stunted, so it was difficult to tell. Of all things, The Warmest December is a story of forgiveness, not necessarily out of love, but out of a need to close a bad chapter in life so that one can move on to other things.
Published: February 2001
Theme: Too Late by Rachelle Ferrell