Book Review: Blue Hour by Tiffany Clarke Harrison

Blue Hour – Tiffany Clarke Harrison (Soft Skull Press, 2023)

I received an Advance Reading Copy of this book. All opinions are my own. Publication date is April 4, 2023

A narrator – a woman whose name we keep being just on the verge of learning – is a talented photographer, an instructor, a wife. She’s a biracial woman struggling with the idea of what it might mean to bring a Black child into such a turbulent world. A world where one of her very own young photography students is shot by the police while walking home from the store. Along with the grief of a recent miscarriage, she drops into depression, unable to make any decisions for either her present or her future.

She and her husband – who is Jewish – have been planning for and trying to have a baby without success. Miscarriages make her even more fearful of the future and cause her to withdraw into herself, hiding from her husband, unsure if the future he wants is what she also wants.

While there isn’t a lot of plot to this slim novel, there is a lot that propels it forward. I found myself wanting to know what the narrator would decide, where she would end up. Normally, I find books that focus on a woman who can’t decide whether or not she wants to become a mother to be aggravating but I didn’t feel that way about Blue Hour. I think this is primarily because the narrator’s fears and uncertainties felt really valid. Most of the books I’ve read that waffle over motherhood feature white, middle class women and I want to scream at them, If you can’t decide, let that be your decision! Don’t become a parent if you’re this unsure! But here we have a woman who mostly does want to be a mother, who loves her partner and wants to share a child with him, who should be able to take this next step forward. What holds her back is her fear – fear of pregnancy loss, yes, but primarily fear of how the world might treat her Black child. It’s a fear her husband can’t entirely know or share, even when he tries. It’s a fear I can’t know either but it felt real on the page and it feels real when you look around at the state of things in the United States.

I appreciated the character of her husband, Asher, as well. Too often, stories like this oversimplify and villainize the partner. He cheats or he has a dark secret past or he chooses his abusive family of origin over his wife. Instead, Asher is a steadfast partner. He gets angry and upset and frustrated, as real people do, but he loves his wife and that shines on the page. The narrator and her husband have a whirlwind sort of romance with an intensity found in books like this but that doesn’t mean what they have isn’t genuine.

Overall, I was impressed. The book has some hiccups but it’s a strong debut novel from an interesting voice.

5 thoughts on “Book Review: Blue Hour by Tiffany Clarke Harrison”

  1. I wonder if you would like reading any of Alice Walker’s nonfiction. She used to live down South during the Civil Rights Movement and was married to a white Jewish man. She was estranged from her daughter for a long time. She might still be, I don’t remember.

  2. I’m like you; when I read about a woman waffling over having children, painfully weighing the pros and cons I always think – your decision is pretty clear, just don’t have one! LOL

    I’m not familiar with Soft Skull Press – are they a small American publisher?

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