Riveting and complex… wholly entertaining.
Set in 1994, this dynamic, deeply engrossing second installment in Smith’s Call Numbers series continues with Robin Walker’s story as he struggles to find his own place in world while trying to cope with his personal traumas, grief, family betrayals, and work politics. The life seems to be testing Robin’s patience once again: his grandfather is in critical condition in hospital after collapsing at home, his mom and other immediate family is freezing him out as usual, and with Sonyai Yi’s ongoing private battle with Augustus Chavez, working at the 58th Street Branch has become entirely unbearable. Unable to cope, Robin is on the brink of a mental breakup, but the beautiful Shinju Hasegawa, the eluding Asian woman Robin saw months ago, walks into Robin’s life, offering a glimpse of hope to his otherwise grim life. But finding peace and quiet is not that simple. As hidden secrets come to surface, leaving the branch shattered, Robin must transfer to another branch or risk losing his sanity. Smith’s examination of the connections between individuals from different walks of life and his intimate portrait of a perfect 90s era with its dark undertones of racial discrimination and class distinction showcases his gifts for setting, social satire, and character analysis. His storytelling is evocative, and his skillful handling of a large cast of motley crews of characters makes it easy for the reader to feel connected to them. Robin’s story has a great undertone of tragedy, and Smith’s refusal to rely on melodrama makes it all the more affecting. Smith’s prose is crisp and sensitive, and his characters richly drawn. Robin is a remarkably crafted character, his personal struggles, insecurities, fears constructed without an ounce of cliché. But Robin is not the only one going through a personal crisis: the story explores Lakeshia’s sexual awakening, Tanya’s digressions among others, and it’s through his young characters’ stories that Smith captures the essence of teenage experience; Heywood Learner, Angie, Tommy, Sarah, and Lakeshia’s parents all are going through their own dilemmas; also joining the cast is Robin’s grandfather, whose bond with Robin stays at the center of the story. With its wild fusion of individual struggles and work politics, the novel keeps the reader thoroughly intrigued. Smith’s masterful storytelling weaves themes of friendship, love, work politics, and racial disparity into a deeply satisfying tale that will leave readers exited for the next installment.
Book Endings – A Call Numbers novel: Loss, Pain, and Revelations
(Call Numbers, #2)
By Syntell Smith
Syntell Smith Publishing
Pub date September 25, 2020
Price $16.95 (USD) paperback, $26.95 Hardcover, $4.99 Kindle edition