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The Darkest Child: A Review

Title: The Darkest Child by Delores Phillips
Genre: historical fiction, southern gothic, coming-of-age
My rating: 5/5
Age: Adult

I could ramble on about meaningless shit like I do from time to time, or I could dive right into this epic coming-of-age story.

Yes. The second.

Ruthless. Completely ruthless. From the first chapter to the sixty-second. Dear lord, hold onto your butts because this story will bring you to tears, will sicken you with dread.

Is this a recommendation? I dunno. I want to recommend it to every person I meet. However, it’s not a happy story.

Does it turn out well for the main character? For once, at the end, we see her coming into her own agency, her own action against her mother and the society that has beaten her and her brothers and sisters down.

In a way, then, it is the real-world version of a good ending.

But damn if we have to go through hell to get there.

The story follows Tangy Mae as she navigates the precarious possessiveness of her mother and 1950s Georgia, US. And Tangy Mae is not only black; she’s the blackest black, the darkest child of her mother. A fact her mother likes to remind her of.

Tangy Mae has nine siblings, all but one snubbed under the thumb of their powerful, mentally ill mother. One ran away after she turned eighteen. The others are left… at first. But one by one they flee, until, finally, Tangy Mae leaves with her younger sister after graduating high school.

Where will she go? What will she do? That is up to your imagination, since The Darkest Child is Delores Phillips’ debut and only novel, which was published a decade before her death in 2014.

Along with fighting for life, quite literally, under the neglect and abuse of her mother, Tangy also strives to complete her education and earn money to satiate her mother and keep her younger sisters away from “the farmhouse”. She watches two of her siblings die at the hands of her mother, murders that will be archived as accidents. She and her siblings are bonded by terror of their mother… but is that enough to hold them together?

With beautiful, realistic portrayals of way of life in the 1950s southern US, as well as the rising turmoil surrounding desegregation, Phillips has created an epic of a coming-of-age story. Superbly written.

Why am I recommending such a dark book? Well, at least I’m informing you it’s deeply disturbing. But, conversely, I was hooked from page one. And I felt something, quite a few somethings, while reading The Darkest Child. I can’t say that about every book, and not even about most books.


If you’ve enjoyed this review and would like to read more, check out my Book Reviews page. I won’t be catching up on the 100s of books I’ve read, but I’m trying to write reviews on most of the books onward.

Have a book recommendation? Be it indie or trad published, feel free to reach out.

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