I loved listening to Hope and Glory by Jendella Benson (2022), narrated by Kelechi Okafor. Set in London, and centered on a Nigerian-British family and community, the story is told from the perspective of Glory Akindele, who has just returned home from Los Angeles after her father’s death. Remaining are her mother, Celeste, her older sister, Faith, with her husband Michael and twin toddlers, and her brother, Victor, who is in jail but won’t speak to Glory.
Glory has decided to stay home for good, as things in Los Angeles were not quite as Insta-perfect as she had led people to believe. She encounters Julian at her father’s funeral–they grew up together, and he becomes a friend as Glory realizes her family has fallen apart in her absence. Her mother is on the verge of a breakdown, Victor is in jail, and her beloved father has died suddenly. Faith has given up a promising career to wrangle the toddlers while her husband has a high-powered legal job and is hardly home, and Glory can’t for the life of her understand why.
Glory starts asking questions when she encounters the birth certificate of her dead twin sister — Hope — while organizing some of her father’s papers, but can’t find her death certificate. She doesn’t remember the circumstances of her sister’s death, and no one will talk about it. Even worse, her mother’s mental health is fragile at best, and gets worse whenever Glory asks questions, which makes Faith angry, and she’s the only one really talking to Glory.
What if Hope hadn’t really died? And her mother’s grief is not only for her husband’s death, but for all of the terrible choices immigrant mothers are forced to make through circumstances and misogyny? And what if Victor hadn’t done something terrible to land up in jail but was a victim of circumstances and dodgy prosecution practices that caused more men of color to face long jail terms when they did nothing more than associate with known criminals? And finally, what if Glory’s father wasn’t the pillar of the Nigerian-British community that he was perceived to be, but just a man who made both bad and good choices, and forced those choices on his family, like many other men?
It’s full of drama, and some romance, and reunions. I loved the narration and different accents, and the glimpse of Nigerian-British culture. If you like contemporary family drama novels with some twists and a mystery, with a heroine who doesn’t need a glamorous job, but is willing to work as an event server to get by, I’d recommend Hope and Glory.
I don’t recall any explicit anti-fat bias, so it’s categorized as weight-neutral.