As I said yesterday in my review of This Boy’s Life, making blended families work isn’t exactly easy, and sometimes, extenuating make the transition even more difficult. For 10-year-old Clover Hill and her new stepmother, Sara Kate, those extenuating circumstances come in the form of the death of Gaten, Clover’s father, in a car accident shortly after his marriage. With the one person they had in common prematurely removed from the picture, newly orphaned Clover and her widowed stepmother must simultaneously deal with both their grief and one another. To make matters worse, the racial lines that Gaten was willing to step over in the name of love stand out in stark relief, as neither Clover or her extended family think that White Sara Kate is the appropriate guardian for her.
Though Sanders’ first novel, Clover is rich with family, imagery, southern Black American culture, and most of all, love. With a surprisingly poignant glimpse at the world through the eyes of a grieving child, this novel takes us on an exploration of the fusions of culture and race. As Sara Kate steps up to the plate and keeps her promise to her late husband to raise his child, she learns that there’s much more to parenting a Black child than she had initially thought. As she learns to slowly shed the layers of passive and active racism she carries, and Clover is able to trust her, both of them begin to heal, not just united in their love for Gaten, but for one another.
Though a children’s novel, Clover is nuanced and incredibly talented storytelling that can be enjoyed by people of all ages and should be a required reading for anyone with a Black or biracial child; this is perhaps even more obvious in the film adaptation. More than being a novel about overcoming grief, Clover is an insistent reminder about the importance of White caretakers consistently, perpetually checking their privilege, if they mean to raise a nonBlack child without the trauma of latent racism and microaggressions, and actually have meaningful relationships with these children. Beautiful and complex in its simplicity, Clover remains timeless almost 30 years after its release.
I give this one 4.75 stars.