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Tuesday, October 11, 2016

A Galaxy of Scars by Jorja Tabu

Published: August 2016
Rating: 3 out of 5

The author sent me a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. This is the first Jorja Tabu book that I've had the opportunity to read, so as always when it comes to new writers I was excited to give it a try. A Galaxy of Scars was well written, and the storytelling had a visual quality that I appreciated. It is obvious that Jorja Tabu is a writer with talent, yet there was something that held me back from truly enjoying A Galaxy of Scars as much as I wanted to.

What It's About
Imani Cartwright has returned to her hometown for a funeral. Her brother and only sibling (who is also a successful UFC fighter) has been murdered. Years ago, Imani left her hometown and everyone in it behind as she headed off for New York. Now a success, she must deal with the bitterness and resentment from her mother and one-time best friend. She is also confronted with the man who was her brothers best friend, and at one time her lover, Roman O'Malley. Unfortunately, Roman is also a suspect in her brother's unsolved murder. Inspired my memories and her own suspicions involving her brother's case, she decides to stick around the broken town and film a documentary. Is there a future with Roman? Does she want there to be? Will her brother's murders remain hidden or threaten her and those she loves?

What I Liked
The first thing readers should know about this book is that it isn't a typical romance story. There really isn't much in terms of general "romance" at all. That's not a bad thing. It's just something readers should be aware of. It's more of a journey that the main character Imani takes regarding her feelings about home and the people who represent her life growing up. The story had a good cast of characters that gave it a very full and well rounded feel. Imani wasn't a Mary Sue and I appreciated that about her character. She was flawed and at times her actions were selfish and less than honorable. In fact, the whole cast of characters were flawed in one way or another and I felt like the strength of these character portrayals gave the book great depth. Second to Imani's journey, A Galaxy of Scars is a suspense or whodunit. I won't go much into this except to say it is pretty obvious, until it isn't. It was the parts that revolved around the murder that I enjoyed the most.

What I Didn't Like
Unfortunately, as much as I loved the crafting of the characters, I didn't like any of them. None of them, particularly the women (her mother included), were people that I couldn't sympathize with, even when they were hurt or threatened in some way. If I met them in person, let's just say we wouldn't be friends. I was a little more tolerant of Roman, but it may be because he came off as a devoted puppy and I felt sorry for him most of the time. Don't get me wrong, the guy is a bad-ass UFC fighter, but his devotion to Imani... I just couldn't understand it. She didn't deserve his eternal love in my opinion, but then again I guess love doesn't always make sense.
More than anything, the flashbacks were a problem. They really messed with the flow in my opinion and took me right out of the story that I wanted to read. It happened so often that I found myself losing interest and wanting to skip ahead.

Final Thoughts
Ultimately, I found A Galaxy of Scars to be a bit of a mixed bag. It was eloquently written and I had no problem envisioning the characters, the place, or the life that the characters were raised in. But my inability to connect or care about a majority of the characters, on top of the frequent journeys to the past really took away from the story. Although I don't have to love characters to enjoy a story, I do need to be thoroughly engaged to love a book.
I'm giving this book a very tenuous 3 out of 5 star rating. I felt it deserved more than a 2 because when it worked it really worked, but it's never a good thing when I can't stay engaged long enough to devour a book in one or even two sittings.

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