“What’s Mine and Yours,” | Reviewed by Pat Sainz
“What’s Mine and Yours,” by Naima Coster, explores the chaos of two matriarchal families in a small town located in the Piedmont Triad of North Carolina between 1992 and 2018.
The families are interconnected through events not always of their own choosing. The characters manage to cobble together lives that eventually separate them but, as is typical of families and acquaintances from small towns, they come together when tragedy looms or when celebratory events draw them home.
Lacey May is the hardened mother of three daughters. Her husband Robbie, originally from South America and now a part-time garage mechanic, has saved money to purchase a small house on the “good” side of town. Their moderately comfortable life is upended when Robbie’s drug addictions and subsequent behavior break up the family.
Jade is Gee's mother, a child who is left with his young, ill-equipped mother after her boyfriend Ray, the person most important to Gee, is killed. Ray dies in front of the boy when Gee is six-years-old. Ray’s death shapes Gee’s future. Gees’ life is upended again when he is forced to participate in the integration of a high school outside the city limits.
Both families are saved in part by the kindness of others even if the helpers’ intentions are not totally innocent. Both Lacey May and Jade are flawed parents at the mercy of their own financial distress and misguided decisions. They do, however, represent mothers who will do anything for their children.
Much of the story focuses on Lacy May and Jade's children. Try as their offspring may, once they become adults they cannot separate their actions and choices from their upbringing, or from the influences of their parents.
The grown children in the novel recognize their inability to ignore the impact of their upbringing. They learn too late the sacrifices others made for them in spite of mistakes made. They come to understand how fear of other’s differences can cause a lifetime of burden, and finally, embrace the love that is unique to one's family.
Woven throughout the story is racial tension that divides the town and creates enmity in the community. The pointlessness of hate, the effects of racial division, and the class misconceptions and prejudice that divide communities are skillfully depicted by the author.
“What’s Mine and Yours” is a compelling novel that reflects universal truths. Readers will be touched by these families and, possibly, like me, be reminded to judge less and reflect more on the commonality all humans share.