"I can name several people who wish I was never born."
Holy crap. I feel as if I have been personally victimized and manipulated by this book and I am not even mad about it. I am going to try to write this without any spoilers because spoilers are evil. Sufficed to say that this is not a novel that takes a straightforward path.
Allegedly is the story of Mary a fifteen-year-old who has recently been placed in a halfway house after serving six years in "baby jail" for brutally beating an infant that her mother was caring for to death. Allegedly. Everyone thinks that they know who she is is what happened. They don't.
It was impossible not immediately to start pulling for Mary. She is sensitive and bright and has been completely downtrodden by life. I love her drive. So much happens to her and she just keeps trying to get her life on track by saving, studying, and getting a boyfriend. Mary is also black. This is important because her punishment has been that much more severe because of her race and the face that the baby who died was white. During her court, as a nine year old, people were pushing for her to be tried as an adult and to face the death penalty. Let's be honest with ourselves that a) this is entirely realistic and b) it wouldn't be if she had been white. What this book does so well it to hold up a mirror to the ugliest parts of our society and force us to look at and acknowledge them.
There are just so many terrible people in this book. SO MANY. Mary's world is bleak and dark, and there is very little hope offered. Almost everyone that she comes in contact with is a monster in some way or another. She is supposed to have people helping her. Social workers, lawyers, the "mother" at the halfway home, her real mother. Not only do they not help her but they are all agents in furthering her abuse. This is not an easy novel to read. Mary is repeatedly and continuously abused. If child abuse is something that you cannot read about stay well clear of this story. It is unflinching, graphic, and heartbreaking.
I thought that the writing style was perfect for this story. First person present is not one of my favorite tenses. It is almost uncomfortable intimate and claustrophobic. This story was all the more potent for its immediacy and the way that we as readers are immediately in league with Mary. The writing was a bit spare. I sometimes gravitate towards more, shall we say purple phrasing. But the lack of flowery description or sentimentality only emphasizes the fact that Mary's word has no beauty.
This isn't a book that you are going to forget soon. Mary situation, her choices, and the essence of who she is going to haunt me a for a long time. There are parts that I want to read again to see how it all fits together, but it is going to be awhile before I am ready. Highly recommended if you are looking for something dark and though provoking.
Mary B. Addison killed a baby.
Allegedly. She didn’t say much in that first interview with detectives, and the media filled in the only blanks that mattered: A white baby had died while under the care of a churchgoing black woman and her nine-year-old daughter. The public convicted Mary and the jury made it official. But did she do it? She wouldn’t say.
Mary survived six years in baby jail before being dumped in a group home. The house isn’t really “home”—no place where you fear for your life can be considered a home. Home is Ted, who she meets on assignment at a nursing home.
There wasn’t a point to setting the record straight before, but now she’s got Ted—and their unborn child—to think about. When the state threatens to take her baby, Mary must find the voice to fight her past. And her fate lies in the hands of the one person she distrusts the most: her Momma. No one knows the real Momma. But who really knows the real Mary?