Book Review: Take My Hand by Dolen Perkins-Valdez

Publisher: Phoenix
Format: ebook
Release Date: May 12th, 2022

Rating: 5/5 Stars

There are some books you read and know, instantly, it’s going to stay with you for a long time to come. That is definitely true of Take My Hand, the story of Civil Townsend, a nurse in Montgomery, Alabama, and two of her patients, who suffered from governmental overreach. That’s putting the events of this novel really simply, by the way. Perkins-Valdaz focuses the story on Civil, India and Erica, but the forced sterilization the girls experience was an injustice committed against many Black women during this time.

For me, I find Historical fiction to be hit or miss. It takes a skilled writer to fix the reader at that point in time, without becoming too bogged down in details and world-building, and Perkins-Valdaz does it really well here. Civil’s voice is engaging and real, as she begins to have the world around her peeled back, allowing her to see deeper than her upbringing has previously allowed. When she meets India and Erica, she is touched by these two young girls, and comes to care deeply for them. It’s a lovely relationship, though Civil does have to be reminded at times that although they are ‘her girls’, she has to learn to step back.

It’s not an easy read, and a book like this isn’t necessarily ‘enjoyable’, but it’s far from being a chore. It flows, shifting from the past to ‘present’ (in this instance, 2016) as Civil tries to make sense of what happened to these two girls, partly for herself and partly for her daughter. It makes an important point about passing on history, too, especially the type of history often ‘overlooked’ by the ‘mainstream’ (aka, swept under the carpet). The story is passed down to her daughter with the intention of it being remembered, and protected, and retold, and in doing so, Civil is able to pass the story to us, too.

There are those much more knowledgeable about these events than I. I was aware of some of this, but there’s a huge difference in being aware – or having read about an event previously, such as the forced sterilisation programmes – and fully seeing it, and Perkins-Valdez does an excellent job of showing it to the reader and allowing us to really completely connect with these characters, all of whom it’s hard not to feel for, not to root for.

Take My Hand is a fictional account of a very real event, and highlights the very real people at its centre. It is wonderfully written and beautifully executed, and heart wrenchingly painful, and without a doubt one to pick up soon as you can.

Thank you to Orion Publishing for providing me a copy of this book via NetGalley – views remain my own.

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