AUTHOR: Tiffany D. Jackson
Purchase @ AMAZON
REVIEWER: Pistol Annie
RATING: 4 Stars
Allegedly. She didn’t say much in that first interview with detectives, and the media filled in the only blanks that mattered:
A white baby had died while under the care of a church-going black woman and her nine-year-old daughter. The public convicted Mary and the jury made it official. But did she do it? She wouldn’t say.
Mary survived six years in baby jail before being dumped in a group home. The house isn’t really “home”—no place where you fear for your life can be considered a home. Home is Ted, who she meets on assignment at a nursing home.
There wasn’t a point to setting the record straight before, but now she’s got Ted—and their unborn child—to think about. When the state threatens to take her baby, Mary must find the voice to fight her past. And her fate lies in the hands of the one person she distrusts the most: her Momma. No one knows the real Momma. But who really knows the real Mary?
In this gritty and haunting debut, Tiffany D. Jackson explores the grey areas in our understanding of justice, family, and truth, and acknowledges the light and darkness alive in all of us.
Any system that allows us to turn a blind eye to hopelessness and despair,
that’s not a justice system,
that’s an injustice system.
(President Barack Obama, 07/24/15)
Something very different from what I’ve been reading, this is a well-crafted and powerfully written debut from Tiffany D. Jackson. To be honest, it was a struggle to write this review. I finally decided to go with the theory of “less is more.” Believe me, in this case, it is definitely the better choice. The story reveals in chilling, distressing and gut-wrenching detail the plight of children sentenced to imprisonment by our justice system, and the ones that are likely to suffer the most from its disparities. Mary Addison’s story is not an easy read, but one you’ll not easily be able to tear yourself away from either.
The book blurb gives plenty of insight into the gripping plot and sets readers up to know what has happened and where Mary has been for the last six years of her young life. Up to this point, she has never spoken a word regarding the crime or punishment. Now at age 15, there are changes in her life, and Mary finds herself at a crossroads. Accolades to this author on her outstanding ability to put readers on the edge of their seats with each step that comes next.
Mary is the target of some brutal and harsh treatment at the group home where she now lives. She’s quiet, intelligent and not a troublemaker. Volunteering at a nursing home and meeting secretly with Ted, who’s also a volunteer, is her only escape. My better judgment screamed that Ted may not be the answer to all of Mary’s problems. Truth be told, he may just be a set of new ones. The writing is tough to read — the author nails the pain and agony and the sense of helplessness. But within Mary is a strength that grows stronger with each day. Can you imagine being so young, trapped and pregnant? She makes the decision to “take charge” of her life and finally defend herself. At this point things begin to change. She now has something in her life much too important to ignore without fighting her hardest battle. She may lose everything if she doesn’t take a chance on herself. It’s time to finally set the record straight if she is ever to see a future outside the prison walls that have already stolen her childhood. For that to happen, Mary must tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Is Mary guilty of killing that poor baby, or is there more to this story?
The gut-wrenching relationship between Mary and her mother ripped my heart out. What a disgusting and deplorable person she was! There just aren’t any words to sufficiently describe the feelings the author was able to draw from me towards a mother like her. Maybe despicable, but even that isn’t harsh enough. Really, I feel a heavy desire for a few choice expletives — preferably the four-letter kind, but I’ll refrain to keep myself out of trouble. I’m amazed at how well this author gets her meaning across. The characters and their personalities are fully exposed. The importance of all those details is what extends this beyond the ordinary.
Finally, that abrupt and highly unanticipated ending. Sadly, I admit to being more than a little disappointed and upset by the jaw-dropping conclusion. After reading almost 400 pages, sour grapes were not what I expected. And in truth, it came out of left field and I’m still trying to put reason to the madness. So be forewarned to expect the unexpected.
Jackson paints a dark and ugly picture of the criminal legal system and the neglect and failures by parents and social services to do more to protect the innocence of children. I must admit that Mary’s story left me completely unnerved and shaken — but more aware. Every time I read or see a news story about another child facing similar types of unfair and unjust treatment, I’ll remember Mary and her tragic story. This author unapologetically exposes this world, along with the inhumanities and complexities hidden behind those walls of justice. It is obvious that she has indeed done her research. Allegedly, without a doubt, will stick with me for a long time to come.