Book Review: Day Clean by E.R Dinsmore

Author E.R Dinsmore’s lengthy novel takes place in Beaufort, South Carolina, a small town with a vivid and vicarious social atmosphere, hidden under the veneer of the mundane. The story begins with its central character, Jonah Ezekiel, fleeing from his abusive foster parents and briefly finding refuge in the woods. Jonah, a vivacious young Gullah boy, has suffered many years of abuse and neglect. However, not long after his momentary escape, the boy is kindly taken in by three quirky, tough and consistently interesting characters: Coral Peters, Jack Claybourne and Jadah Blue Jimysee. Coral is a social worker with a teenage daughter named Hannah. Hannah, just as vivacious as Jonah, finds a kind of solace in him as she struggles to come to terms with her father’s untimely death. The fact that Jadah is a child psychologist is a little ironic; considering she scarcely has the resources to handle her own emotional issues. From the very start these characters, each with good intentions, seem ill-equipped to provide a stable home for the young Jonah, though they may provide better care than he received at his previous residence.

As the novel progresses, an additional element, other than the domestic backdrop, begins to emerge. A mystery involving an entangled web of secrets, and possibly murder, changes the course of each characters journey. To further complicate matters, Jonah’s new family believes that his life might be in danger, a notion that forces them to take an action, the consequences of which will alter their lives forever. Eventually, Jonah’s family find themselves up against the “powers that be” of Beaufort, at the center of which is Eugenia Sams. Notorious for their heartlessness, Eugenia and her son are overtly cut from the same cloth and exert authority over the town. A war between the two families commences, leaving no character unscathed.

Day Clean is a story that is always redefining the concept of love, and the notion of what the building blocks of “family” really are. The novel is also a mystery of sorts, and touches on cultural issues, but never ceases to emphasize the universal aspects of the human experience. With that being said, the book is a bit long: sixty-one chapters. Also, her writing style, which is often very colloquial and rhythmic, sometimes feels as though it should be spoken rather than read. Her characters also speak with heavy dialects, which can be a little disorienting for readers who are used to more traditional styles of writing.

By Rebecca Nichloson