Seven Days in June by Tia Williams – A Five-Star Book Review
“I wish you the most brilliant, weird, and wonderful things, every day of the world.”
Tia Williams, Seven Days in June (pg. 113)
This might be one of my all-time favorite book quotations now, and it encapsulates everything I feel about Seven Days in June, a brilliant novel by Tia Williams that has been sitting on my to-be-read shelf for far too long.
Eva’s life is full in Brooklyn. She is a celebrated Black author with her bestselling he erotic fantasy series Cursed; friends with vibrant, inspiring women like her editor Cece and renowned poet Belinda; and, most importantly, a devoted mom to her precocious pre-teen daughter Audre. All Eva has is focused on giving Audre a better life than what Eva experienced during her childhood.
Yes, her life is full but it’s far from perfect, something that Eva has come to accept. She deals with her invisible disability–debilitating migraines that bring her to her knees–in silence, taking precautions and hiding her emergency painkillers outside of her inner circle. And, while Cursed has been her life’s work for 14 novels, she feels trapped in the fantasy world of Gia and Sebastian because those stories sell copies and there’s a movie deal on the table. Eva wants to move beyond those stories and explore her own family’s stories, those of her mother Lizette, grandmother Clotilde, and great-grandmother Delphine.
But, one steamy day in June, a man walks back into Eva’s life from decades before, and all is no longer fine. Shane, an award-winning novelist himself, disappeared from her life after a heady, drug-infused week of their senior year in high school. Now he wants to make amends, and Eva starts to question all that she’s known.
What I Loved About Seven Days in June
There is so much to love about this book. Ms. Williams pours emotion onto the page and lets you sit with the characters as they feel happiness, doubt, pain, and heartbreak. Those characters and the representation of not just race but also disabilities, mental health, and poverty are what made me love this book with ferocity, but really, every bit of this novel is perfect, in my opinion.
Eva is a beautiful protagonist, one who isn’t perfect but is endearing in every way. Her devotion to Audre is palpable, as is her love for Shane, even when she tries to deny that love. Through flashbacks, we see how Eva developed into a fierce but tender woman despite her mother’s neglect, and we see how writing became a survival mechanism for her. Also, Ms. Williams did an excellent job of showing us how trapped Eva felt in continuing Cursed, a sure-thing for her finances, rather than pursue what she really wanted to write about. I loved Eva’s character, her nuances and flaws. She is a character I would want to meet in person, learn from, and be friends with.
Shane is just as imperfect and endearing as Eva. We learn so much about his troubled, heartbreaking past in the book’s flashbacks, but we also see how he has started to rebuild his life, first by choosing to become sober and then by teaching at inner-city schools, despite his resounding literary success. Shane hasn’t written a new novel in awhile, but everything he’s written has been praised–and it’s all been written for Eva. Shane is a deeply feeling man who places so much of the world’s burden on himself.
Audre is the picture of a 12-year-old girl about to explode into womanhood. She’s dramatic with a capital D, but she’s also incredibly intelligent and insightful, and she’s determined to use those gifts for the good of others. After all, she runs a side business of Snapchat therapy sessions for her friends. Every scene with Audre was like a burst of color and emotion.
While Eva, Shane, and Audre are the main characters in the book, the secondary characters like Cece, Belinda, Ty, and Lizette bring so much to the story. They are fully realized characters, with their own strengths and flaws. Ms. Williams spends time with each, and I appreciated how even the characters with the shortest presence in the book were still well-developed and realistic, not just acting in the background of the story.
From the descriptions of the Black literati celebrations to the way Eva plaits Audre’s hair, this book gives beautiful representation to Black identity and experiences. Throughout her novel, Ms. Williams addresses whitewashing, generational trauma, and the systemic injustices that occur as children are born into poverty. Yes, this is a love story between Eva and Shane, but it is more than that.
Disability and mental health play key roles in Seven Days in June as well. Eva hides her migraines despite their crushing daily presence. Flashbacks show both Eva and Shane self-harming and using alcohol and drugs to numb their pain. In the present, Shane uses running to keep himself from turning back to alcohol, but he still keeps the burden of others on his shoulders and feels deep shame and guilt if he cannot help them.
Seven Days in June is more than a romance novel. Yes, it is steamy and brings all the feelings when you read about Eva and Shane’s past and current interactions, but it is a story about growth and identity as well. I loved the characters and the representation in this novel, and I can’t wait to pick up another book by Ms. Williams.