Sweet Dominique
by Will Holmes

"Big Swag: I wish I could get out this street life like you, homie. But I’m too far in. You got a good girl, two beautiful kids."

This is a story of a young black woman overcoming many horrendous obstacles, including the death of her mother during childbirth, when her father was faced with a most difficult choice of keeping the mother alive or the new baby; according to the doctors, only one option was viable. Her mother insisted that the new life be spared. The baby, Dominique, also lost her only sibling, as well as her dad and stepmom in a car wreck. She got pregnant in her teens, twice. The characters we come to know in Holmes’ book live lives surrounded by drugs, murder, gangs, poverty, prayer in church, and parents often not being at home. Dominique—or Sweet Dominique, as her mother, Evette, decides to name her on her deathbed in the hospital during delivery—rises above it all to go on to earn her Master’s degree and become CEO of a Fortune 500 telecommunications company.

Optimism and faith abound in Holmes’ work, despite often-harrowing circumstances for the better part of the cast of characters. “Many days I wanted to give up,” Dominique says, “although when you’re connected to a higher power, quitting is not an option.” A good, solid work in the genre generally referred to as urban fiction, Holmes’ book is a fast-paced page-turner. Significantly, the book proves a very salient read on revealing quite honestly how “driving while black” is a real phenomenon when it comes to policing and issues of criminal justice vis-à-vis the African-American community.

Also appealing is that this very readable novel is written in a quasi-screenwriting style. Included are new scene setups, dialogue introduced by the speaker, and narration notes by the author, all of which guide the reader easily through the use of boldface type, italics, and other font and style differences throughout the narrative. These literary choices in no way present a hindrance but, in fact, provide ease-of-use in taking in the plotline, action, and stage directions.

Readers of this book truly come to know and root for the supporting characters, such as Tete (Dominique’s brother), Steven (who has a major crush on the main character and is genuinely a good guy), Trevon and other guys who regularly meet-up for a game of hooks, and Thomas, Sweet Dominique’s father, a man forever in mourning from Evette’s death during childbirth and who turns sadly to the bottle. Further, Big Homie (who heads up the drug-dealing gang), like some others, suggests to Trevon that he get out of “doing this shit. I mean, you have a bright future,” he one day tells Trevon, who has dreams and—more significantly—true talent to make it in the NBA as a pro. Overall, this is a very engaging and interesting novel. In addition to its focus on societal matters of race, justice, poverty, and the like, Holmes’ book is also highly entertaining. All of these are reasons enough, including its pure escapism, to make this book worth reading. It is truly a title that should stand out in its literary genre.

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