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The Wisdom of Hair (2013)

It's 1983 in South Carolina. Zora Adams is celebrating her 19th birthday. Well, trying to celebrate. It's difficult to be cheerful about anything when your mother is an abusive alcoholic, who has delusions of being Judy Garland and brings home a new man every night. With the help of her high school English teacher, Zora leaves her mother and starts a new life in Davenport. Enrolled at the Davenport School of Beauty, she hopes to make a beautiful life for herself. She rents an apartment from Winston Sawyer, a handsome widower who keeps to himself and drowns his sorrow in a bottle of Scotch each night. Despite hating her mother's alcoholism, Zora falls hard for Winston and turns a blind eye to his drinking. Things become more and more complicated, and if it weren't for her new friends, Sara Jane and Mrs. Farquhar, Zora might have been really lost. As Zora practises perms and up-dos, saves her pennies and hopes for a bright future, she learns the true meaning of love, friendship, and above all, forgiveness. Talk about not judging a book by its cover! I didn't expect this book to be so heavy and dramatic. The characters are well constructed, and the plot is both realistic and heart-breaking. The author doesn't shy away from showing how devastating alcoholism and mental illness can be. And yet, these characters weren't demonised either. Their humanity and vulnerability shines through, so even when I disagreed with what they were doing, I could understand why and felt more compassion. Because this book explores some heavy issues, I wish there had been more happy/fun chapters to balance it out. Although I enjoyed the book overall, I felt kind of depressed when I finished reading. (CK)

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