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Book Review: Work Like Any Other

Review By: Fatyma Mazhar

The book “Work Like Any Other” is written by the author Virginia Reeves. It was published in 2016 and was her debut novel. She is a graduate of Michener Center for Writers.

The story goes back to the 1920s and is set in Alabama. It revolves around Roscoe T Martin who is a skilled electrician, his wife Marie and their son Gerald. Roscoe runs the farm which was inherited by his wife from her father. Being unhappy with life and in an attempt to better himself and his family, Roscoe chooses to seize electricity illegally and use it for his farm.  When a man called George Haskin is killed by his electricity lines, Roscoe is arrested and sent to prison. His life changes in the blink of an eye. On the farm, Roscoe T Martin was having dinner with his family, laughing and talking to his son and thinking that his marriage with Marie is finally working out but it all changes that one night. In the prison, he misses his family and reflects on his life. He listens to different life stories of his fellow inmates and makes a new friend Ed. In addition to examining the effects of Roscoe’s decisions, the story dives into the lives of those impacted by them, such as his wife Marie and Wilson, a black prisoner who plays a crucial role in the plot and who helped Roscoe in achieving his goal but got arrested along with Roscoe after the tragic incident of Haskin. The book also features Moa, the wife of Wilson who misses her husband a lot while he is away and blames Roscoe for all her sufferings. Marie starts hating Roscoe too after the incident and stops their son Gerald from meeting Roscoe in the prison.

Virginia Reeves carefully switches between multiple character viewpoints and chronological sequences, offering a multifaceted picture of the happenings and the people involved. The reader is transported to the world of 1920s Alabama, complete with social unrest and racial tensions, by the vivid and emotionally charged writing.

The novel’s analysis of issues like race, identity, and the burden of guilt is one of its strong points. Reeves skillfully captures the historical racial inequalities and the injustices African Americans endured, emphasizing the sharp contrast between the characters’ lives.

It is a very heart-wrenching and emotional story. It is a tale of waiting for your loved ones, waiting and hoping that they might come back, waiting for their one glance because you have missed them so badly. Roscoe regularly writes letters to his wife from the prison but those letters always go unanswered. It was very upsetting since he pours so much love into those writings and hopes for his beloved Marie to write him back. It’s about loss: losing oneself, one’s dignity, one’s family, the need to come to terms with one’s past in order to move on, the inability to forgive as well as the ability to forgive, and redemption.

“Work Like Any Other” gracefully examines individual accountability and the results of one’s deeds. It serves as a reminder that, on occasions, the decisions we make can have a significant impact on the lives of people who are close to us.

The book is a fascinating read for anyone interested in historical fiction and literary works that address moral and ethical issues because it is masterfully written and provocative. It poses difficult moral dilemmas for which there are no simple solutions. It asks readers to reflect on the decisions taken by the characters and the intricate web of repercussions that follows.

In conclusion, “Work Like Any Other” by Virginia Reeves is a moving and masterfully written book that tells a compelling tale against the backdrop of a divided and evolving American South based on race. For readers who value literary merit and well-developed historical fiction, this book is highly recommended because of its compelling characters and themes.

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