This Is So Beautiful

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Trigger Warnings: Generational trauma, racism, mentions of alcoholism and verbal abuse, homophobia, character death

Avery Anderson’s life is uprooted when her family moves from Washington DC to Bardell, Georgia her senior year of high school to look after her maternal grandmother, Mama Letty, who’s in her final stages of cancer. Avery only remembers one visit with her grandmother, cut short by an argument, when she was very young. Bardell is a small town with only two high schools - one public, and one private, the latter being founded by one of the town’s many racist forefathers. Avery quickly gets adopted into the friendship of two girls: Simone Cole, Mama Letty’s next door neighbor, and Jade Oliver, a descendent of one of Bardell’s oldest families.

Avery’s relationship with her grandmother is far from easy. Mama Letty isn’t easy to get to know, especially when she only answers questions in grunts and gruffs. It also doesn’t help that the tension between her mother and grandmother is so thick you can cut it with a knife, but both of them are refusing to address it.

Avery sets out on trying to mend the broken and split relationship but there are events many are refusing to talk about. It isn’t until Mama Letty begins to open up to Avery about her past, that Avery is able to piece together her family history that was shaped by the town’s racist history. As more events come out of the shadows, Avery must decide if finding out the truth is worth damaging the relationships she’s built in Bardell, or if some things are better left buried.

I absolutely loved and adored this book very much. Jas Hammonds masterfully tells this layered story of a young woman finding out about her family’s past within a novel that’s about generational trauma and racism. The amount of trauma the three generations of women must peel back is constantly met with tension. The story is hard to read at times, especially when you’re reading about Mama Letty’s past and the town’s racism, but this book wrapped its arms around me and refused to let go until the Harding family’s story is told.

Alongside Avery finding out about her family’s past, the relationship between Simone and Avery grows deeper and the way the two of them find their footing to their sexuality was well written. I wish I had grown up with a place like The Renaissance where you were accepted no matter what.

Overall, this novel is going to be one I’m going to talk about for months to come. It was beautiful, heartbreaking, hopeful, and captivating. Any readers who love reading about family and their dynamics, relationships, and hope will really enjoy this book.