Review by Maria Snell
Blurb: In the Fall of 2001, John Manning’s life is in turmoil. His six-year-old daughter Lucy needs a kidney transplant, and his travel agency is in financial distress because of the 9/11 tragedy. A lapse in his health insurance means he also has to quickly secure funds for his daughter’s operation. John had worked his way out of difficult situations before, but now he’s out of solutions. Wanda, a client of John’s travel agency, is facing similar difficulties. Her livelihood as a drug dealer has also been hit hard by 9/11. Increased airport security has stymied her transport of cocaine via airline flights. As a single parent, she wants to leave this dangerous profession and break free from her drug-lord boss Jamel, but a lack of funds has curtailed attempts to move and start a new life with her daughter Tonya. Desperate times lead to desperate measures, and John and Wanda form a partnership to smuggle cocaine via cruise ships. John’s industry knowledge and connections help circumvent transportation risks, while Wanda’s knowledge of the drug industry helps them distribute and sell the product. Despite a near-death experience on their first run, it was a financial success, and Wanda coaxes John into another trip. Meanwhile Jamel is becoming suspicious of Wanda. John’s half-brother Travis, a Durham police detective battling his own demons, can’t connect the dots between John and Wanda. Yet, he continues to line his pocket with ill-gotten gains. Lucy and John are the most important people in Travis’ life and he would do anything they asked to help—if they would only ask. How far should a father go to save his child? Can a man and woman from completely different worlds help each other? Could they fall in love? And who will live to see the summer of 2002? Find the answers in Shades of Gray, a debut novel by Andy Holloman.
Review: I enjoyed Shades of Gray…it is one of those books that makes you rethink your perceptions and idealisms of what you would or would not do for your child. We all say we would literally do anything for our children…but would we? Would we trade our “morality” and put everything at risk? Can we judge the decisions of those that would or would not? What if our decisions change the course of our lives and those we are trying to save in the first place? The story was gripping, coherent, and realistic. The characters were well developed. I did find at times that the story was long winded, with repeated explanations of situations and relationships between the characters, and some unnecessary scenes very similar to previous ones that were not adding anything new to the story. I do believe that as a first book, this was a very good effort by Andy Holloman. It is a strong read even if it could have benefited from a strong editor to give it a well-rounded final version. I look forward to reading more books by this author.