50 Books by Authors of Color: Book 13
Title: Red Light Wives
Author: Mary Monroe
After reading the abomination of literature that was Flyy Girl I decided to read another work of urban fiction, thinking that maybe it was the genre and not Tyree’s book. Well I’m glad to know it’s not the urban fiction genre that bothered me.
Monroe’s Red Light Wives follows four high class call girls, Ester, Rockelle, Rosette and Lula Mae who live and work in San Francisco. Each woman has a background and a history that makes them extremely easy to relate to. The story starts with Lula Mae, who lives in Mississippi, pregnant with the child of a (unbeknownst to her) a married man, who’s wife is pregnant and gives birth at the same time and at the same hospital as Lula Mae. Lula Mae’s child dies and with it her relationship with the married Larry. She ends up marrying a man named Bo Hawkins and moving to California.
After Bo is murdered Ester comes to Lula’s rescue. Introducing her to the other “sister wives” and later Clyde who gets her turning tricks. Ester was probably my favorite of the four women, as a baby Ester was found by Clyde in a dumpster, she was passed from foster home to foster home until finally reconnecting with Clyde and starting turning tricks. Rosette and her mother move to California via Detroit, via Georgia trying to escape a curse put on them. Rockelle, my least favorite had a husband name Joe who left her and her three children.
This wasn’t a tale of women’s liberation through sex, all of the women, though they have chosen to enter a life of prostitution they all feel trapped by it. Unlike Tyree’s work, Monroe creates believable, realistic characters with backgrounds and feelings that shine through. It’s not your typical hooker(s)-with-a-heart-of-gold with a pimp with a heart as black as coal story either. The women can be conniving, greedy and jealous and Clyde was a complicated character. I didn’t like him, but his motivation for his line of business (as well as selling used cars and other various side jobs) was getting specialized treatment for his daughter Keisha, who is physically deformed and has a mental disability from being hit by a car as a young child.
Monroe does an astute job of created complicated characters and a story of the paths that life can take. While the characters are still stereotypes, they’re at least likable stereotypes.
Overall Rating: 3/5