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Bookworm: ‘Careful What You Click For’ a romp, complete with humor and drama

‘Pauli Murray’ is ultimately, absolutely worthwhile

Terri Schlichenmeyer
Columnist

"Careful What You Click For"

  • By Mary B. Morrison
  • c. 2020, Kensington Dafina
  • $26, $35 Canada; 304 pages

Left, left, right, left again. You'd never date that one. Or that one. Yes to him, no, no, yes, and, wow, yes. Meeting folks on a phone isn't something great-grandma ever did, and in the new novel "Careful What You Click For" by Mary B. Morrison, Granny never dated like this, either.

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Not many people could afford to retain the services of Jordan Jackson. The lovely Ms. Jackson was a lawyer who commanded big money to get her clients out of trouble, but power and influence didn't love her. She hadn't had a man in her bed in many months. It was time to do something about that.

"Careful What You Click For" by Mary B. Morrison.

Jordan knew Victoria, Chancellor, and Kingston from Hope for All Church; they were the usher team. Victoria, 60-something but looking far younger, was the mistress of a much older man. Chancellor was in love with a woman who only paid her bills with sugar daddies. Kingston was a rich and famous former athlete who was cheating on his wife, and Jordan was tired of all their complaints. She challenged them to go online to find the love they claimed they really wanted.

For Victoria, pleasure from a younger man was an excellent idea; her long-time lover, Willy Copeland, didn't even know what he couldn't do anymore. She adored Willy, but her body needed what he couldn't give her.

Though he hated Tracy, Chancellor hated seeing her flirt with other men more. Didn't he give her thousands of dollars in their first weeks together, supposedly for a funeral for her mother? Yeah, and Mom was alive and well. Chancellor couldn't decide if he wanted to kill Tracy or love her. Maybe a new woman was a good idea.

As for Kingston, he lied to his friends. He told them he wasn't married to his baby-mama, Monet (he was). He said he might be interested in dating a woman from the ATL (he wasn't).

No, what he really wanted was an ATL man.

Picture this: if you were to take your average decently-plotted thriller-mystery, plus one romp-com, and smush them into a hard-core porn film until they mixed well, "Careful What You Click For" is pretty much what you'd get.

Author Mary B. Morrison starts out with more mating than murder, and it's laid on so thick that there's your romp, complete with humor, drama, and characters that are rich, gorgeous, and never time-constrained. Beware that these parts of this book are explicit.

Say it again: explicit.

But just before a reader gets tired of so many bedrooms, Morrison sneaks in the thriller parts. Things take big turns for the worst. Folks get comeuppances. There's a hidden real-life warning here that is put-on-a-sweater chilling. And, of course, there's more spice and more sex with – believe it or not – a heroine inside this story.

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Start this book and be willing to laugh with it. Be willing to go along with its outrageousness. Beware: explicit. Race to the end, and you might find "Careful What You Click For" to be just right.

"Pauli Murray: A Personal and Political Life"

  • By Troy R. Saxby
  • c. 2020, The University of North Carolina Press
  • $34.95, higher in Canada; 353 pages

Life, if you think about it, is somewhat like a necklace. Imagine the first bead is birth, starting off a chain. This bead represents your fifth birthday, here's your tenth, graduation, your first job, your first home, your firstborn.

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Some beads are larger, but the smaller ones are not unimportant. And, so it goes, but when building that metaphoric chain, as in the new book "Pauli Murray: A Personal and Political Life" by Troy R. Saxby, be aware of the links.

"Pauli Murray: A Personal and Political Life" by Troy R. Saxby

Almost from the day she was born, Annie Pauline Murray was challenged. When she was three years old, her pregnant mother died, leaving six children to a husband who was abusive and mentally ill. Shortly afterward, Murray's father entered a "psychiatric facility," where he died when Murray was 12; between those losses, Murray was taken in and raised by an aunt in a poverty-affected but "respectable middle-class" household that contained more mental illness.

Though many of Murray's Black family members "passed" as white, her closest guardians "gloried in the achievements of African Americans." Young Murray had a "rebellious streak," but she embraced the education her elders demanded, and was driven to excel: at college, many officials doubted that she could do the work required to succeed, and they told her so – but that "streak" made her more determined, which helped her achieve several college degrees, including one in law. Her accomplishments were many: Murray was an early feminist, she worked tirelessly and ingeniously for the Civil Rights Movement and for social justice, but her successes didn't buoy her.

Always a "tomboy," Murray had love affairs with women through the years, but furtively, given the times and lack of tolerance for homosexuality. She seemed to embrace that love, but it also seemed to bother her: she asked doctors if there was something inside her that was more male than female, as if she were a "hermaphrodite." This, perhaps, as well as racism, self-pressure to succeed, confrontationalism, and mental illness that plagued her family caused "almost annual breakdowns ... "

While it starts out fascinating, with descriptions of the era in which Murray's forebears lived and of her earliest years, "Pauli Murray" becomes too much, too quickly. It's comprehensive, that's a fact – author Troy R. Saxby seemed to leave no stone unturned – but infinitesimal details of Murray's life are abundant here, every argument, movement, and visit, and that can be overwhelming.

And yet, there's so much to glean from this book, so many milestones Saxby says Murray set, that you almost can't stop reading despite watching the discomfort, obvious pain, and inner struggle she endured. Through letters and articles she wrote, readers get to know Murray as she perceived herself; those personal peeks are engrossing, especially given the legacy she left when she died almost exactly 35 years ago.

If you have the patience, or the ability to skim when overpowered with minutiae, "Pauli Murray" is ultimately, absolutely worthwhile. Especially now, any reader who wants to know more about social justice pioneers should get a bead on it.

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The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. She has been reading since she was 3 years old and never goes anywhere without a book. Terri lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books.