This was the first novel that I’ve read by Diane McKinney-Whetstone and I must say I thoroughly enjoyed it. In Tumbling, McKinney-Whetstone weaves an intricate tale of family, love, commitment, sacrifices, and community. The novel which is set in South Philadelphia during the 1940s, finds Herbie in a tenuous situation. He is a man who loves his wife, Noon, but because of her “problem” of being unable to consummate the marriage because of a horrible incident in her past, he finds comfort in the arms of Ethel, a sultry jazz club singer. These two women were worlds apart: Noon, a good churchgoing woman is comfortable wearing sensible shoes and Ethel; a woman built to be chased by men and wouldn’t be caught without wearing her red high heels.
One night after coming home from the speakeasy, Herbie finds a cardboard box with a baby in it swaddled in a “loosely knitted bright pink blanket,” with eyes as “dark as coals.” He and Noon decide to raise the child whom they called Fannie as their own and Herbie becomes anchored to his marriage and devoted to his family. However, five years later, things get complicated when Ethel decides to drop off her niece, a red-haired child named Liz, on their doorstep. Liz and Herbie don’t get along because she remembers him from being with her aunt – a secret she decides to hold to herself.
Fast forward two decades later: Fannie has a special gift of “seeing things,” Liz yearns for a fancier way of living and continues to hold the secret of Herbie and Ethel, Herbie still frequents speakeasies because Noon’s problem has not been gone away, and gentrification has hit the neighborhood and the church community. What happens next is a culmination of things where Noon fights to keep her family.
This was a great story full of well fleshed out characters and told in several point of views (POVs). Typically, reading novels with several POVs within the same paragraph or scene would be jarring but McKinney-Whetstone handled it masterfully. However, I felt that there were a few loose ends that needed to be tied up which were only slightly touched on. Nevertheless, this was a great read and a story that tugs at your heart which shows you can become triumphant after sacrifices, secrets and heartache.
Some of my favorite lines:
She acted mad over it on the outside. Right now she buzzed to Herbie, “Terrible thing she did to that poor chile, just leaving her on the steps like that. I knew that hussy was up to something walking up and down this street last Sunday like something she wanted lived on it. At first I thought it was you. Now I know it was a home for that chile.”
“She can’t stay, Noon,” Herbie said, agitated, but relieved nonetheless to be in this darkened bedroom, under the covers and safe from Liz’s frightened eyes. “You can’t just take no child in and claim her just ’cause she was left on your steps.”
“Can, and will,” Noon snapped. “Did it with Fannie.”
“Fannie was different. She was a newborn; we didn’t even know where she came from.”
“Well, what am I supposed to do, turn her over to the state? You know they don’t care a thing ’bout poor little colored children; stick her in a foster home is all they’ll do where all somebody want is the money. I don’t have it in me to do that to that child. Reverend Schell said to look at it as a gift from God. According to Round-the-Corner-Rose, her aunt’s more into living the fast life than taking care of the chile. So Reverend Schell said to look at it as God giving the child a good home where she can learn about the love of Jesus.”
Rating: 4 stars