Author Claudette Carrida Jeffrey

Publisher: Infinity Publishing

ISBN:  978-0-7414-7903-7

Families are complicated, so can be friendships. Ask anyone: everyone has their stories. In A Brown Paper Bag and a Fine Tooth Comb, author Claudette Carrida Jeffrey has created authentically idiosyncratic characters navigating universal plots and subplots and it is this combination of the universal and the idiosyncratic that puts this novel in the highest echelon of classic literary fiction. 

Black or white, male or female, straight or gay,  old or young, religious or agnostic, readers who care for others and truly believe in the social values of equality and inclusion are going to applaud this excellent, moving novel. The narrator, Claire Soublet, is an extremely smart, thoughtful girl  who was taught to read at the age of three by a now dead aunt and has ambitions to get a college education and see the world. 

She is moved to anger by people who discriminate on the basis of race or gender. She is moved to compassion by people who are victims of discrimination or ignored when they need and deserve to be acknowledged and assisted. She is also moved to anger when she fears she is about to be abandoned and/or betrayed in some way.

She’s had a history that predisposes her to this defensiveness. And she begins to suspect the mysterious life histories of other people she meets, most importantly an old white woman who takes her in after her grandmother dies.

The undeclared but deeply felt love that grows between Claire and the mysterious Sera is the focal point of the novel. Revolving around this important relationship over the years as Claire grows into, through  and out of adolescence, we meet several young men who are enamored of her for various reasons, some good, some not so good.  It is through her eyes that we see what women of that time were up against, what people of color in that region were up against, the kinds of prejudices that restricted their dreams, their aspirations, their relationships.

 The best books take the reader to the time and place, when and where the story is set. (Think Wuthering Heights, Yorkshire Moors in an earlier century). Brown Paper Bag definitely takes readers to the world of New Orleans in the forties and fifties. Readers who have been to New Orleans will recognize it. Readers who have never been there will feel like they have.

 This book does more than tell a story, it gives the gift of experience. It leaves us hopeful for Claire’s future and eager for a sequel that will divulge the details of  that future as well as Sera’s intriguing past.  Highly recommended!

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