Accident of Birth by Heather Neff Harlem Moon/Broadway Books, November 2004 $12.95, ISBN 0-767-91751-0
Neff's third novel proves her talent as a gifted storyteller. Accident of Birth's Reba Freeman is living in two worlds: She is basking in the luxury of a big house, top job, perfect daughter, and the love but yet unfaithfulness of her second husband. She reminisces about her past, allowing the memories of living in Liberia to nag and taunt her.
"It's not the usual chick lit. I call it a vacation novel that challenges the readers," Neff said in an interview.
The plot centers on Reba's first romantic interest, Joseph Thomas. "Typically, women hang on to the fantasy of the first love, looking at it as the romantic ideal", Neff pointed out, playing the "what if" possibility to the max in her story line until Reba becomes obsessed.
In order to save her current marriage to Carl, she must first reconcile what she had with Joseph. Loving Joseph, an African, meant committing to his culture, whereas Reba wanted the man. Another standout in the book is Marisa, Reba's daughter, who urges her mother to find her "first love."
Neff admits that her theme is intended to appeal across generations. "The novice (in love) versus the experienced woman--compare her...