Journalist Asha Bandele is an award-winning autho whose literary debut, A Prisoner’s Wife: A Memoir, received great reviews and high acclaim. Having never read any of Bandele’s work, this reviewer eagerly anticipated reading her latest release—the follow-up to A Prisoner’s Wife—Something Like Beautiful: One Single Mother’s Story. Unfortunately, I experienced a disappointing read that did not live up to expectations.
With Something Like Beautiful, Bandele takes readers on her journey of single motherhood that is more like a heart-stopping roller coaster ride with significant highs and lows. Of course, what makes her story different from most single moms is how she became a single mother in the first place: she married an incarcerated man serving a twenty-to-life sentence and got pregnant during a conjugal visit.
She starts by giving readers some insight into how she fell in love with an inmate and how she pictured her life - their life - upon his release. With appeals on the horizon, she marries the man whom she loves so much despite his lack of freedom. Shortly thereafter, she discovers that one of her visits has led to pregnancy. Although she loves her husband and cherishes the new life growing inside her, she cannot deny the feelings of isolation and loneliness, and the reality of being married yet embarking on motherhood alone.
When it becomes clear that she and her husband will probably never live together, she describes her downward spiral into severe depression, her rebound into an abusive relationship, and her struggles with single parenting. Through it all, she has one ray of hope: her daughter, Nisa. Although Bandele seeks professional counseling, she often leans on her daughter, depending on her child for emotional stability, it seems.
This author is known for writing eloquently and poetically, and in that regard she does not disappoint. However, while the book is written with commendable candor and at times is quite thought-provoking, it needs more. This is highlighted by odd transitions that indicates parts of the story were skipped intentionally. For example, what happened to the actual breakup scene? What was said when Bandele and her husband, Rashid, actually ended the relationship? Rashid is a key character yet underdeveloped in this book.
Something Like Beautiful is a personal story but one plagued by tangential thoughts and belabored points. Rather than a book written for readers, this work seems more therapeutic in nature for the author. It’s almost like reading a diary - not necessarily a bad quality, but this “diary” is depressing, not juicy or exciting. This reader simply expected more—more information, more character development, and more to capture and hold interest.