has also reviewed:

The Real Deal

 
A New Day
by Margaret Johnson-Hodge
(St. Martin's Press, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-312-96915-5
****
A New Day, Margaret Johnson-Hodge's second novel, is a story of sex and the single mother.

Maxwell Scutter was introduced in Johnson-Hodge's first novel, The Real Deal. Max was the on-again, off-again love interest of that novel's heroine, Samone Lewis. He was a wealthy New York banker who was unable to make a commitment.

Max began dating Carol-Anne McClementine near the end of The Real Deal. In that novel, Samone took a quick inventory of her successor "About five feet nine, a hundred and forty pounds. Full bosom, round hips. Older. Late thirties... Carol-Anne was the type of woman who never drew attention or turned a head...Samone saw nothing about the woman that would draw Max's heart...Did not understand how Max had fallen for a woman so different from herself..."

Opposites attract. A New Day is Max and Carol-Anne's story.

When A New Day begins, the emotional shoe is on the other foot. Max is undergoing relationship withdrawal similar to the anxiety Samone experienced at the beginning of The Real Deal.

Carol-Anne and Max were brought together one afternoon at Baskin-Robbins by her eight-year-old daughter, Nadia. The little girl saw Max "sitting there, eating ice cream and he had this look" that reminded her of her mother's. It was loneliness...and a little child shall lead them.

Soon Max and Carol-Anne and Nadia were a threesome. The author gives us an honest look at the social and economic dilemma some single mothers face. The relationship develops at an uneventful pace until: (a) Max tries to "make things better" for Carol-Anne by sprucing up her wardrobe and apartment; (b) Carol-Anne comes face-to-face with Max's ex-girlfriend, the drop-dead gorgeous Samone and Max's lingering feelings for her; and (c) Nadia's father wants to establish a relationship with his daughter.

"Carol-Anne had thought long and hard about her relationship with Max. Max made too much money, was too handsome, too hot a property to ever stay with her. Carol-Anne was a struggling single mother living in Spanish Harlem in a dilapidated antiquated apartment. Max was a rich, single, handsome black man with no kids, the flyest apartment this side of the Hudson River, and money to burn.

He was Stacy Adams. She was Payless. He was Porgy and Bess on Broadway and she was pirated cable TV. Max was the man with the masters in finance and Carol-Anne was simply a graduate of the school of hard knocks. He was weekly trips to the barber shop and accounts at Barney's. She was do-it-yourself perm kits and sales at John's Bargain World on 12th.

"Max was T-bone steak, Carol-Anne was ground beef with more fat than meat. They were ambushed from the start."

While meeting Samone unearths some insecurities in Carol-Anne about their relationship, she neither whines nor dwells on them. She looks to Max to let her know where she stands with him.

Carol-Anne struggles to maintain her self-esteem while Max's friends, Nadia's father and her own mother chip away at it. Hers is a very complex character, particularly when screened through the filters of her relationships with her mother and her daughter. Carol-Anne is fiercely protective of Nadia and painstakingly weighs the impact of choice in her personal life with have on her daughter.

Margaret Johnson-Hodge has given us fully developed characters. We know who they are, their strengths and weaknesses. While Max still needs a certain finesse in his relationships with women and his break-ups still leave a lot to be desired, he has matured in this book. It is interesting to measure him through the eyes of the women in his life.

At the end of my review of The Real Deal, I posed the question of whether Jon Everette was Samone's "Mr. Right" or "Mr. Right Now." A New Day gives us the answer. And, while A New Day works very well as a stand-alone novel, some events overlap and I now recommend The Real Deal to fill in some of the blanks.

A New Day is an excellent story about love, pride, parenting and second chances. I recommend it.

--Gwendolyn Osborne


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