(Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

Love is a carefully structured novel with a prologue and nine chapters devoted to the characters’ stories and their different, often contradictory, perceptions of Bill Cosey. Together, these chapters span a sixty-year period and represent the way racial segregation and the process of desegregation shape the lives of the Cosey family. To the local African American community, Cosey’s Hotel and Resort, catering exclusively to African Americans with its procession of famous jazz musicians and wealthy guests, offered a fairytale image of success during the Jim Crow period. While Bill himself was a role model of African American achievement to his guests and the locals, the different chapters in the novel suggest the tensions, bitter resentments, and misunderstandings brewing in Bill’s immediate family, and they question Bill’s roles as a husband, father, grandfather, friend, and benefactor.

Alhough he died over twenty years earlier, Bill’s influence upon Christine and Heed is still palpable in the 1990’s. They may have loved each other as children, but now they are enemies. Bill’s will, a note scribbled on a menu from 1958, is not specific enough; it leaves everything to that “sweet Cosey child,” and both Cosey women have a claim to that title: Christine is Bill’s granddaughter, while Heed was his child bride and called him “Papa.” Heed employs Junior to find a later will, and Christine visits a lawyer after pilfering the housekeeping money. The two women live at war in their Monarch Street house, while Junior establishes a sexual relationship with Romen, who is fourteen.

Behind the novel’s tight focus on the personal history of the Cosey family lies the public history of U.S. segregation and the movement toward desegregation. Working under the Jim Crow laws that separated African Americans and white people in public places such as schools, trains and buses, theaters, and resorts, Bill necessarily made...

(The entire section is 793 words.)