March 1, 2018 | Format: Paperback
by Maxine Thompson
Stories of twins separated at birth have been around for many years. But Patricia Anne Phillips’ novel, Two-Sided Heart, has a fresh twist. This is a multi-layered, intergenerational gem of a story.
The story opens on the day of Elvis Presley’s death, August 16, 1977. This is a great historical marker, because on the day of Presley’s death, the world mourned this rock n’ roll icon as it was the end of an era. His cultural impact was one that combined African American music, country music, and blues. Elvis Presley represented the beginning of more integration of Blacks and whites through music, which also is reflected in this storyline.
Ironically, on the date of Elvis Presley’s death, Leah Mann, the protagonist, goes into labor and prematurely gives birth to twin daughters, one Black and one white.
Today, we see these stories on the Internet, where there is a white parent and a black parent, who, through a genetic chance occurrence, give birth to twin babies exhibiting two different colors. One child looks white, the other twin looks black.
In this case, Leah sees her babies, whom she falls in love with right away. Although both babies are biracial, you could only tell it in one baby. One baby is white, and the other baby is tan—clearly destined to be a Black child.
The problem is Randal, Leah’s husband, is white, and she is Creole. Although her husband knew of Leah’s Black DNA when he married her, he hadn’t minded because she looked white. He met her in New Orleans, where mixed races are common. After their marriage, all his friends assumed Leah was white.
However, Randal hadn’t thought about the possibility of the Black genetics showing up when they gave birth to their set of twins. This may have not been as important in today’s society. Unfortunately, this took place during a social period in history when Interracial dating and marriage were still taboo.
Initially, the father let his displeasure be known to Leah. He even expressed regret in marrying her, although he had loved her.
“We have a problem, Leah. We can only take one baby home.” Randal kept his voice low, his tone was cold. “I fell in love with you before I discovered you weren’t White. The baby doesn’t look white at all.”
Then, when Leah is released from the hospital with the white looking baby, Brooklyn, Randal seems to have a change of heart. The black baby, Leanne, was left behind in the hospital to gain weight. The husband told Leah that the baby had a weak heart. In a rash movement, her husband gave the Black twin up for adoption, but told his wife that the baby had died. Because he was going through bankruptcy, he thought the money he received for the baby would save him. His guilt, combined with his financial difficulties, were too much to handle, and he committed suicide when the remaining twin, Brooklyn, was only a month old.
Leah, whose husband has been the main support of the family, is left alone to fend for herself with her baby girl, Brooklyn. In addition, she finds out Leanne, the baby she is mourning, is not dead, but that the husband has given the baby away, so her grief is compounded. But, she has to figure out a way to make a living, so her search for her daughter is superseded by her need to feed her remaining twin and herself.
Thus, begins two separate journeys for the twin girls. Needless to say, the white twin, Brooklyn, has the luck of the draw. She appears white, and she has her mother’s undying love. On the other hand, Leanne, who began life rejected by her father, seemed to have a good start with what appeared to be a good adoptive Black family. But in a twist of fate, the truth came out about her adoptive family, and Leanne wounded up being orphaned and having to stay with unrelated, uncaring relatives.
This is a story of a mother’s deep abiding love and her great courage to rebuild her life. I loved this story because it is a page turner, yet it is relatable. With business elements, romance, suspense, and finally a surprising climax, this will keep the reader glued to the page, waiting to see what will happen next.
This is a tale of what it is to be marginalized by race in this country. Yet this is a story of redemption. Race is still the number one issue woven into the tapestry of this country, and this is a timely story.