By Bridget Davis

ISBN 096688650X

Black and White Enterprises / 2002

Fiction / African American Fiction

Tel: 1800-501-4798, E-mail:


When we first meet Sarah James, she is recovering from a suicide attempt precipitated by an overwhelming sense of despair. Sarah is the single mother of five daughters, and the prospect of raising them on welfare in Harlem seems impossible. Yet when she returns to her family, she is full of resolve, and her oldest daughter Marcy’s justified anger galvanizes her in a way no amount of therapy could. The James girls are memorable sisters, the scholar Madison, Purle, who is lost in her romance with street-smart Tyrone, musical Olivia and quiet Kim. Momma’s Purle is however, in many ways, Marcey’s story. After finding her mother unconscious in a pool of blood, she became the responsible sister and much of the touching narrative is told in her natural and unaffected voice. The family is uncommonly close, as they draw a protective web around each other to cushion them from the drug-infested neighborhood in which they live. Their years of vigilance and hard work seem to be paying off when a terrible event occurs. When a night intruder is holding Sarah at gunpoint, Purle shoots him with an illegal handgun she had been keeping for Tyrone. As the family finds the resources and courage to see Purle through her incarceration and trial, they are reunited with Sarah’s long lost sister.

Bridget Davis does an effective job in evoking the warmth and affection shared by these likable and interesting characters. Set in the post-Vietnam Era, Momma’s Purle is infused with a fine sense of period and the colorful details of life in Harlem. It is indeed a triumphant story of a decent family’s tormented inner life and struggle, as its various members wrestle with the nihilism and despair that permeates the violent mental and physical environment of the inner city. It shows how love and the determination to overcome any obstacles to our rightful goals, are their own rewards and often result in the concrete attainment of success in spite of the positive hostility and indifference of the surrounding society.