The story of a girl tempered in a crucible of abuse and neglect, Neecey’s Lullaby is a superbly crafted narrative in the spirit of the bestselling novels Push and Bastard Out of Carolina.
Growing up in Chicago in the 1950s, Neecey once felt that her world was perfect. She was loved and protected by her father, Jesse, and lived in relative comfort with her mother, Ruby, her grandmother, Ma ’Dear, and her siblings. But when Ruby and Jesse’s marriage falls apart due to Jesse’s cheating ways and Ruby’s hot temper, the children are eventually abandoned by their father and end up living in poverty in a housing project.
Ruby plunges into depression and anger, yelling at and hitting her children without warning. Ruby brings shiftless suitors into her home and gives them her body and her time, leaving Neecey to learn on her own how to cook and care for her five younger siblings, some mere babies. Yet despite the trauma, Neecey’s love for her sisters and brother, and ultimately herself, helps her find the inner strength to succeed.
Cris Burks has created a poignant portrait of a child who strives to soar above a world of pain.
Burks's unflinching, precisely observed story of a girl's will to survive her hopeless surroundings a Chicago home ravaged by poverty, abuse and neglect follows Neecey from her childhood in the mid 1950s to her early 20s, in 1973. Burks recounts a bleak coming-of-age for Neecey, beginning with the dissolution of her parents' marriage. The sudden appearance of a man claiming to be her real father sets in motion the philandering of her de facto father, Jesse, and the jealous rages of her mother, Ruby. In a broken home ruled by Ruby's fists and extension cord lashings, self-sacrificing Neecey assumes an adult role as surrogate mother to her younger siblings, whose numbers grow from three to five as Ruby barters her body for male comfort. Giving predatory lovers free range over her home while leaving Neecey to cook and care for the children, Ruby displays a destructive self-absorption unmitigated by any sense of responsibility to her family. While Burks (SilkyDreamGirl) skillfully charts Neecey's struggles in a bleak urban landscape, she demonizes Ruby, placing a two-dimensional character at the core of an otherwise moving second novel.