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September 2, 2014, 5:39 am

‘Warmest December’ depicts family grief

“The Warmest December(Akashic Books, $15.95)” tells the powerful, deeply moving story of one Brooklyn family and the alcoholism and abuse that marked the years of their lives. Bernice McFadden’s vivid novel opens with: “Now and then I forget things. ... One day last week I forgot that I hated my father .... ” Narrated by Kenzie Lowe, a young woman reminiscent of Jamaica Kincaid’s Annie John, the story moves fluidly between the past and the present as she visits her dying father and finds that choices she once thought beyond her control are very much hers to make.

“In reading Bernice’s work, particularly ‘The Warmest December,’ I wondered how much of it came from her actual life,” reflected her friend and fellow author James Frey. “On her own website, there is a banner across the top that says, ‘I write to breathe life back into memory.’ The book tells the story of a woman named Kenzie sitting at her father’s bedside as he slowly dies. She relieves, through memory, the horrific childhood she experienced at his hands, a childhood marred by alcoholism and extreme physical abuse. The narrative moves back and forth between Kenzie’s memories and her present life, one in which she has survived, but is struggling with her addiction to alcohol. It is a beautiful book, and my words about it don’t do it justice.”

McFadden is the author of seven critically acclaimed novels including the classic “Sugar” and “Glorious,” which was featured in “O, The Oprah Magazine,” selected as the debut title for the One Book, One Harlem program, and was a finalist for the NAACP Image Award. She is a two-time Hurston/Wright Legacy Award finalist, as well as the recipient of two fiction honor awards from the BCALA.

Set in Brooklyn, New York, McFadden’s birthplace and current residence, the author explains that she wrote “The Warmest December” “because children of addictive and/or abusive parents walk the thinnest line between love and hate, sanity and madness, life and death.”


Contact Tribune staff writer Bobbi Booker at (215) 893-5749 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .