Review: The Wisdom of Hair by Kim Boykin

Title: The Wisdom of Hair by Kim Boykin
Publisher: Berkley Trade
Genre: Contemporary (1980s), Fiction
Length: 304 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


Life can be beautiful, but it takes a little work…

“The problem with cutting your own hair is that once you start, you just keep cutting, trying to fix it, and the truth is, some things can never be fixed. The day of my daddy’s funeral, I cut my bangs until they were the length of those little paintbrushes that come with dime-store watercolor sets. I was nine years old. People asked me why I did it, but I was too young then to know I was changing my hair because I wanted to change my life.”

In 1983, on her nineteenth birthday, Zora Adams finally says goodbye to her alcoholic mother and their tiny town in the mountains of South Carolina. Living with a woman who dresses like Judy Garland and brings home a different man each night is not a pretty existence, and Zora is ready for life to be beautiful.

With the help of a beloved teacher, she moves to a coastal town and enrolls in the Davenport School of Beauty. Under the tutelage of Mrs. Cathcart, she learns the art of fixing hair, and becomes fast friends with the lively Sara Jane Farquhar, a natural hair stylist. She also falls hard for handsome young widower Winston Sawyer, who is drowning his grief in bourbon. She couldn’t save Mama, but maybe she can save him.

As Zora practices finger waves, updos, and spit curls, she also comes to learn that few things are permanent in this life—except real love, lasting friendship, and, ultimately… forgiveness.

The Review:

The Wisdom of Hair by Kim Boykin is a powerful novel about love, healing and forgiveness. It is also an emotional story about friendship and finding family when we least expect it.

Caring for her narcissistic and alcoholic mother has left nineteen year old Zora Adams wise beyond her years. Making the decision to accept her high school teacher’s assistance to attend beauty school was not easy, but Zora knows that it is time to make a better life for herself. And in doing so, she finds much more than a career. Her close friendship with Sara Jane Faquhar gives her the family she so desperately needs. Her romance with Winston Sawyer is unsettling and irrevocably changes her life.

Zora is a sympathetic and well-drawn protagonist and my heart went out to her as she was faced with some very difficult decisions. She has a love/hate relationship with her dysfunctional mother and self-preservation becomes the key to a better future. Despite her efforts to the contrary, Zora finds herself making some of the same mistakes as her mother. Through these experiences, she gains understanding of her mother and this understanding allows her to forgive not only her mother, but herself as well.

The Wisdom of Hair is a beautifully written novel of self-discovery. Kim Boyton’s writing style is quite engaging and her characters are three-dimensional and realistic. This marvelous coming of age story will resonate with anyone who enjoys a heartfelt and emotional story about redemption and overcoming a dysfunctional and difficult childhood.

1 Comment

Filed under 1980s, Berkely Trade, Contemporary, Kim Boykin, Rated B+, Review, The Wisdom of Hair

One Response to Review: The Wisdom of Hair by Kim Boykin

  1. Timitra

    I like the sound of this!