A review of Cheryl A. Head’s Time’s Undoing, a “searing” novel based on her own family history.
In many ways, the past has the capacity to dictate our future. From generation to generation, we inherit characteristics, flaws and quirks that shape and mold us into who we are. Oftentimes, we are endowed with small pieces of puzzles we will never fully comprehend. No matter how hard we dream of days past, most of us will never know the full story.
The same cannot be said for Meghan McKenzie, an unwavering young Black woman determined to bare the truth of her family’s heartbreaking history, and the murder of her great-grandfather, Robert Lee Harrington, in order to tell their story.
Time’s Undoing is a compelling tale of duality and strength, in which author and television producer Cheryl A. Head helps her reader to unearth a harrowing tale—plucked directly from her own family tree—to shed light on the likeness of past and present.
Meghan, a young journalist from Detroit, follows the roots of her ancestry to Birmingham, Alabama, where she hopes to find the truth behind a traumatic fragment of her family’s history and bring peace to her grandmother, who has gone her whole life without answers about what happened to her father.
Aside from her brilliant characterization, and the honesty with which she declares such harsh truths about unchanging dynamics in our society, Head expertly plays with the duplexity of her main characters—Meghan and Robert—by alternating between their perspectives.
Turning the pages of this book transports you from one reality to another, highlighting similarities that are both troubling and endearing between the two—all while the mystery unfolds under your nose.
This connection, however, illuminates a sad reality. While progress has been made, there is still change that needs to occur. This is immediately recognizable through Head’s mention of the Black Lives Matter movement and its persistent efforts to induce change in Meghan’s reality. The movement acts as a reminder that the work is not done, and that Meghan’s generation has continued the fight.
Head recently participated in a panel at the Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival and spoke about the inspiration for Time’s Undoing.
Though the juxtapositions are glaringly obvious, at times it feels as if we are watching Head stare into a mirror at her own reflection. The “Charlie Mack Motown” series author beautifully weaves her own truths into those of her characters through authenticity and emotion, through puzzle pieces of her own. The connection between realities is undeniable, and Head’s attention to detail is what makes this story worth reading.
Time’s Undoing is available now and is one of our Spring Reading Picks.
Alison Gee / April 17, 2023
Once again, Cheryl has hit it out of the ballpark. This is a masterful, thoughtful, and highly engaging novel that I will doubtless re-read.