The Itch

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

In her second novel, The Itch, Benilde Little visits familiar territory, the African American upper-middle class. Abra Lewis Dixon seems to have it all—an Ivy League education, a financially successful husband, a home in the suburbs, and membership into a prosperous social circle. After several years of marriage, Abra discovers her husband, Cullen, has been unfaithful. Abra’s “perfect” world collapses and she embarks on a journey of self-discovery and renewal.

Natasha Coleman, Abra’s childhood friend, is the daughter of a successful businessman. She, like Abra, seems to have everything—a loving family, a successful career, and financial status. Natasha attended the “right” schools and mixes with an influential crowd. Natasha’s world takes a delightful turn, just as Abra’s collapses, when Natasha falls in love with the handsome, upwardly mobile Miles. Although Natasha thinks she has found the perfect mate, Miles is not ready to settle down.

Abra, Natasha, and their friends all enjoy lives of privilege, but they are all missing something in their lives. Identifying and dealing with that “itch” is the crux of the novel. Little does a fine job of portraying an interesting mix of characters and the plot moves along at a good pace. Readers will cheer for Abra as she discovers her own strength and learns that she can make herself happy. Little’s audience will hope Natasha finds the missing piece of the puzzle to complete her life. Although the reader is left with the sense that these women have indeed identified their itch, the question remains whether they will permanently relieve that itch. The ending does not answer that question. After an incredible build-up of characters and plot, the ending was rather flat and disappointing.