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ACCIDENT OF BIRTH
"Not since Marita Golden's Migrations of the Heart has a writer so deftly played the heartstrings that swing between Africa and African Americans. Heather Neff has written a modern romance with global cope. Bravo."
—Veronica Chambers, When Did You Stop Loving Me
Accident of Birth is a riveting story about a woman who must decide between two loves and two worlds—Africa and America—in a courageous journey to save a life...
Reba Freeman's current husband, Carl, has given her all a suburban wife could hope for. A successful businessman, Carl revels in their lovely, custom-built home, expensive cars, and all the pleasures of a comfortable American life.
Carl is sometimes frustrated by his wife's reluctance to share his pride in their hard-earned wealth. But Reba, who works in a non-profit agency that finds safe communities for refugees from other lands, is deeply aware of the challenges most people in world face simply to survive. Often she finds her husband and friends' materialism troubling, and worries that their daughter is growing up without an understanding of the responsibilities that come with privilege, including caring for those who, by accident of birth, have so much less.
Reba often reflects on their days on the campus of a small, church-run Historically-Black College in Baltimore. Her thoughts inevitably turn to her first husband, a student from Liberia named Joseph Thomas. Ignoring the derision of her classmates, Reba fell deeply in love with the studious, gentle-spirited man whose mission was to return to his nation and share his education with others. Though Carl had expressed an interest in her even then, Reba's heart belonged to Joseph. Love brings Reba and Joseph together--but tragic circumstances tear them apart.
Years later Reba decides to make a casual internet search for Joseph. Her life is turned inside out when she learns that Joseph is being held in Switzerland by the World Court for Crimes Against Humanity. Unable to believe that the man she once loved could be implicated in the mass murder of innocent civilians in the Liberian civil war, now---twenty years after she agreed to become his wife--Reba must decide if helping her first husband is worth the loss of everything she's build with Carl.
Alternating between present-day action and flashbacks to the safe, nurturing world of their college days, Accident of Birth creates an intricate tapestry of suspense, drama, and powerful romance. Neff boldly exposes the rift between American comforts and the traumas of the world we choose to ignore, creating a novel that will move readers through its insistence on the endurance of love through circumstance, horror, and time.
Accident of Birth is also available as an audiobook in CD-format.
PRAISE FOR ACCIDENT OF BIRTH
"Heather Neff's Accident of Birth is a convincing romance that explores the still uncharted terrain that lies between Black Americans and Liberians, one of the most morally complex relationships of our time. More than a love story, it explores personal identities shaped by different chapters of the black diaspora."
—Neely Tucker, Love in the Driest Season
"I've been admiring Heather Neff since the publication of her first novel, Blackgammon. With Accident of Birth, my admiration has increased."
—Colin Channer, Passing Through
"A well-told story with social depth."
—Bertice Berry, Ph.D., Redemption Song
"I thought Wisdom was my favorite novel until....I read Accident of Birth!!! This is so not fair. This author writes with so much craft and expertise. It is as if she has lived the plot! I was not able to put this novel down. I was tempted to read the last chapter many many many times but I did not! I rate this novel 10 out of 5 stars!"
—keepin it real
"I seldom write reviews nor read the same book twice. This is one of those few books I want to keep on my very selected collection of books on my limited shelves space. I was happened to come across the audio version of the book from the library for the trip one day. Love it so much. I check it out again. Now I’m getting the book itself. Beside all the great and touching (tear jerker alert) stories, there are tons of wonderful life quotes. Love it, love it. Thanks Heather Neff, whoever you are. Thank you for writing a powerful book that enriches and changes the lives of others."
Education is political
"ACCIDENT OF BIRTH by Heather Neff is not just a story of a romance between an African-American woman and a Liberian man; it is also a story of political unrest in Liberia. When Reba Freeman attends a fictional historical and religious Christian college in Baltimore, Maryland, she meets and falls in love with Joseph Vai Thomas. Joseph is majoring in Education with hopes of returning to his country to form a school to educate his villagers. What begins as typical college lust quickly spirals into a passion-filled romance with consequences neither Reba nor Joseph can imagine. Something so egregious occurs that Joseph runs back to his native land and Reba is left to wallow in her sorrows in the United States.
Twenty years later Reba is married with one child and living in an affluent Northern Virginia suburb. She also works for the Office for the Placement of Permanent Refugees. Joseph is imprisoned for crimes against humanity in Switzerland. Upon learning of his fate Reba uses her professional training to locate him, but her unresolved feelings wreak havoc in her household.
Neff expertly takes the story from present day to the past and back again as she allows the reader to become fully enveloped in Reba and Joseph's courtship and its affect on her family and friends. Utilizing settings such as the Baltimore-Washington metro area, Detroit, Reba's birthplace, and the cities of Monrovia and Taylorville, Liberia, we get a visual sense the characters' surroundings. We are treated with lessons of the political and educational climate in both the United States and Liberia and finally, the relationships and misunderstandings among African-Americans and Africans. Neff allows her characters to grow and change through the course of the novel with detailed accounts as to how and why. Excellent work, highly recommended and could serve as a basis for a truly educational discussion."
—Reviewed by Dawn R. Reeves of The RAWSISTAZ Reviewers
An Engaging Book of Social Importance
"Accident of Birth is a compelling drama about Reba, a woman caught between two loves: her present husband, Carl, and her ex-husband. A story about holding on, then realizing you have to let go and move forward. When her ex-husband is held for crimes against humanity, Reba is compelled to help him, putting a strain on her marriage to Carl, but Reba needs closure. This is a great book club discussion book because of the many issues it represents. The relationship between Africans and African Americans, the difference in traditions and customs. This makes you painfully aware of the social standards in America and the need for understanding and tolerance. The unjust treatment of people simply from an accident of birth. I was left satisfied, with an ache and a smile.
An engaging book of social importance. A powerful read."
—Reviewed by Dawnny, for The Mahogany Book Club
Great, Great, Great!
"This book had great charachters, was a great story, and just had great everything. It was REAL. Real life things happened in the story and everything did not always turn out rosey and perfect for the charachters. And the drama was not soap-operaish or predictable. Trite things did not happen (such as a woman's husband having an affair with her friend). Also the story was different. I don't want to give the plot away, but the story was different and interesting. While the book was certainly entertaining, it was also a little educational. I got the audio book, and the narrator was FANTASTIC! You should definitely read this book."
—Read for Life
Love is Life
"Reba, a marriage is only happy when out of two minds comes a single future. A man and a woman may love each other very much. But they must also share a sense of purpose and a similar vision. They must be happy with the way their lives unfold together, and satisfied with the manner in which they live." Heather Neff captured my life in these sentences. Her book is a realistic portrayal of the circumstances life can pound into out hearts. She has created two characters who feel not only how to love, but how to live when living doesn't seem worth it. She has molded a story that reminds the reader f how hard the truth can truly be. Her characters will remind you of people in your life and you will relate to what she is saying. I think anyone who has ever given up someone or something in order to 'do what is right', must read this book. I can assure you, you will finish the book in less than two days-you won't want to put it down. READ this book."
"Awesome!!!I have read hundreds of books by hundreds of authors, and this was BY FAR my favorite of all time. It is so well written, that the characters come alive. I cannot recommend this book enough!!! I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this book!!"
Book Cover design by Kathleen DiGrado
BookCover photo by Adrienne Waheed