Review: What's Mine and Yours
Updated: May 31
What's Mine and Yours, by Naima Coster (2021)
I enjoyed this story, though I don't think it's going to stick with me. It was a relatively easy, entertaining novel, but the cast of characters was way too large, and the non-linear narrative, jumping back and forth in time and between characters, wasn't executed well. Both of those factors made the novel feel disjointed and confusing.
I was lulled into thinking I was going to love this book because the first chapter is stellar. I wonder if it started as a short story, and then someone encouraged her to turn it into a novel. Unfortunately, the main character of the first chapter disappears completely, and the rest of the book feels empty without him...
This is basically the story of two messy, troubled families led by single mothers. Jade's husband was murdered, and she has one son named Gee. Lacey May's husband went to prison, and upon his release fell back into abusing drugs and alcohol. She has three daughters, Noelle, Diane & Margarita, and a new husband - a relationship that starts off as transactional (she needs monetary support, he wants to satisfy his lifelong crush on her), but becomes more with time. Jade and Lacey May's children end up crossing paths at school. Gee and other kids from "the east side" (a poorer area of town) are part of a push to integrate a predominantly white school. Lacey May opposes the integration, and becomes an active member of a "concerned parent" group. She also vehemently opposes her daughter Noelle's friendship with Gee (but refuses to ever admit that it's race related).
The book jacket summary definitely makes it seem like the school integration plot line is front and center, but it doesn't even show up until well after the halfway mark. The book is not about that. It's about two families' struggles through grief, addiction, poverty, and a whole lot of... shall we say strong personalities. And yet, somehow they all felt one dimensional. The big problem for me is that no one is particularly likable, and maybe that's partly because the narrative is split between so many people - all the people mentioned above plus a host of adjacent characters. My caring-about-what's-happening had to be split between a whole lot of people, and the timeline-jumping meant I often lost the thread of who did what anyway.
I think Coster is attempting to grapple with some serious issues - race relations, identity, motherhood - but ends up only sort of superficially touching on these things because her characters and plot lines are too muddled.
All that said, I really did enjoy reading it... it's just one of those where afterwards I think, "Huh. What was that even about?" (During it I would've given it 3 stars. Once I got to the ending I decided it was a 2.) Like I said, it's not going to stick with me, but it's not a bad read - especially if you're looking for a quick, summer novel.
UP NEXT: Eight Perfect Murders, by Peter Swanson