Living Behind the Beauty Shop: An Adventuresome Novel
Reviewed by April Sullivan for Reader Views (11/11)
“Living Behind the Beauty Shop” starts with a Foreword and a Preface that remind you this book is more than just a novel, it is a philosophical book that guides you toward understanding consciousness, humanity, and diversity. I like that. As I read the book, I kept reminding myself of the words set out at the beginning by the editor, Yvonne Perry, and author H.T. Manogue. Manogue says, “As you get into the story you may tune these mystical vibrations to your frequency or you may choose not to. Either way, you can enjoy the world of the Russell family and relate to it in some form of genius.” This was a great way to start a book that stretches your imagination and pushes you to think beyond what you think you already know.
This book tells the story of the Russell’s, an extended family in Nashville. Warren and Claire run Perception Farms, an innovative approach to homelessness through a community setting. Their daughter Cindy and her partner Margie decide to have a baby and ask long-time friend Alan to be the father. Their son is Mase, the main character in the story who chooses to be born with Down Syndrome and provides a connection to the parallel universe of Ofu.
The story of Ofu is woven in and out of the narrative in a gentle way, so as not to bog down the reader with too much heavy consciousness material, but gets the point across very understandably. Mase uses poetry and art to express himself about Ofu to his family and Manogue includes original art and poetry in the book in a thoughtful way. The author is as much a poet and thinker as he is a novelist. He combines all parts with equal importance.
As someone who works in the non-profit sector with artists with disabilities, I appreciate Manogue’s concepts and ideas. His thoughts on people with Down Syndrome choosing their earthly form as it connects them to the otherworld is a great turnabout on the way people normally think about people with disabilities. I attended a Homeless Resource Fair recently and imagined what it would have been like if a place like Perception Farms existed and all of these people had the chance to show their strengths in a community setting of that sort.
“Living Behind the Beauty Shop” is not your typical novel. But why should it be? We all need to move beyond the typical and let our dreams take us to what is waiting for us, if only we could let ourselves be free.