Ready for another roller-coaster ride? Adrienne Bellamy, the dynamic author of Departures and Connecting, and Lust, Lies and Two Wives, three novels that explore the often dysfunctional, often comical interactions among several African-American families in modern-day Philadelphia, is at it again. In Arrivals, Bellamy continues the saga of these familiar yet totally original characters as they progress, or regress, in their latest set of life-affirming trials.
And that, after all, is where Bellamy excels. Not only do her women characters continue to express the strength, independence and resourcefulness that most humans (whatever the sex) would envy, but they also delight us with their ingenuity and totally engaging personalities. Unwilling to give in to life’s inevitable slings and arrows, they seem to feed off them as they search for, and often find, that perfect mate or a life far more rewarding than anyone has any right to expect.
The beauteous Greer, for example, a widowed graphic artist, has finally emerged from a cocoon of grief with an ingenious plan to allow her perfect freedom in her newfound sexual life — until she encounters a man who resists “perfection” and threatens to disrupt her whole utopian scheme.
Lenora, in her fourth year in prison for performing illegal abortions, has literally discovered, or founded, Life After Death, an innovative program that brings her into close contact with death row inmates whose stories are even more valuable (would unbelievable, terrifying, edifying be more apt descriptions?) than the organs she hopes they will donate following their executions.
And the questions multiply as Bellamy’s engaging characters deal with one problem after another — just like life, only with far more entertaining characters to keep us at our seat’s edge.
Can Reba and Doug maintain their happy marriage when a rebellious teenager and a no-good ex-husband constantly threaten their now-fragile serenity and security?
Will Terri be able to keep any balance in her life now that her unstable, gay, live-in housekeeper Harvey, besotted with phobias and booze, and his former landlady, toss one monkey wrench after another into her well-ordered life?
And will the clever protagonist Amber, the heroine of the two earlier novels, continue to delight us, even though she has grown into a relatively typical teenager with plans and schemes of her own so perilous that their consequences could have lasting effects on both her and her wonderful adoptive father Horace?
The neat thing about Bellamy’s novels is that they bring to the fore imperfect characters whose very foibles and limitations often give us reason to cheer. This is fiction, after all, and its purpose is to entertain, titillate, thrill and maybe even shock us into new awareness. Even when her characters’ decisions and goals seem questionable or unattainable, they’re always unpredictable. And Bellamy’s situations, dialogue, and character twists are nothing if not original, putting to shame much of the formulaic fiction that clogs today’s bookshelves.
So do yourself a favor. Plunge into the interlocking stories that comprise the central core of Arrivals, and (re)discover the distinctive voice, fiery imagination and peerless electricity of one of today’s most idiosyncratic writers.