I generally enjoy cross generational stories, I like the impacts that one generation has on the next. I like looking at the threads that weave between mother and daughter. I like stories about strong women. I like breaking apart the broken pieces of a soul and seeing the fragments. For those reasons I came to this book with enthusiasm. Milikah Harris's book Generational Curses is written in a very matter of fact manner, almost in checklist fashion. The book is broken into Journeys rather than chapters and each journey covers a portion of time in our protagonists life. The novel spans fifty years directly and more than a hundred indirectly. There are large issues being dealt with in this work, incest, rape, slavery, illicit love, homosexuality, murder. The first journey is overwhelming with it's tragedies. There are so many skeltons walking the room that it is hard to appreciate them as skeletons. There could be three books from the circumstances introduced in that first Journey.
The most striking thing in this book was the complacent way people accepted rape and incest and violence in the culture Harris writes of. Husbands are tolerated to molest their children, mothers as well. Rape and incest are almost a foregone conclusion and simply part of the fabric of our characters day to day existence. An instrumental character is murdered, the most endearing man in the novel, and his murderer is never brought to justice, or from what I recall, even sought. It just happened and they had to move on so they did. It's appalling to think that such tragedies and atrocities can be normalized. Harris calls to question the very fabric of a society that can accept such.
Each of the Journeys had the same effect on me. I wanted more and less at the same time. I wanted Joanna, our protagonist, to slow down and let me feel with her, but Joanna marches forward with narry a sideways glance. Fifty years pass and I know a lot of details about things that happen during those years, but I don't ever get to experience them with her. There are a few problems with the timeline but it doesn't really impact the story, it just makes the story line historically inaccurate. She uses journals and letters to handle large portions of the tale.
I would love to see Ms. Harris pull each of these journeys apart and flesh them out, and take us more fully on the walk of Joanna's life. It would be a tremendous life to walk through as she struggles to come to terms with her own demons and the demons others have passed over to her. There are moments when Harris almost shows the reader, she touches it, that fleshed out character, that, true and honest dialogue, but then she tells the details. I did enjoy this book, even as I felt I wanted more from it. Harris kept me moving forward from one page to the next and I read it over a twelve hour span. More than enjoy, I think I appriciated the potential I see in the pieces.