This year, to expand my literary horizons, I wanted to try and read more books by self published authors. The Massive Black Hole by Andrea Barbosa is one of them.
I originally came across Andrea on Goodreads, and decided to read the book based on a few solid reviews and an interesting blurb.
I must begin by saying that this was not my 'typical' read, as Massive Black Hole not only features an entirely female cast, but is also written in a third-person narrative, whereas I tend to favor first-person narrative.
Perhaps, because of the latter, I did not find the story as engaging as I wanted it to be. First-person narrative offers a high degree of intimacy between the reader and the narrator, which is sometimes lost with a third-person narrative. Nevertheless, I believe that readers more accustomed to this narrative style will have no issue getting lost in the book.
When I mention the female cast, I must add that Barbosa's female protagonists are unlike any females I know personally. Massive Black Hole features three protagonists: Cibele, Agatha, and Amy. Cibele is from Rio de Janeiro, Agatha is from Texas, and Amy is from NYC, where most of the story takes place.
The first two protagonists are clearly introduced in their native environment, through present-day interactions with their surroundings, with just enough hint of their shared past. Later, through a flashback, the reader is introduced to Amy, NYC, and the reasons why both Cibele and Agatha ended up in the city. This is where the crux of the story unfolds.
Once the storyline shifts entirely to NYC, a meeting of chance begins an unlikely friendship that will alter the course of their lives forever. The various time shifts in the story are well defined, and the characters fully developed.
What I found interesting is that, as the story unfolds, all three protagonists undergo a major development. In Massive Black Hole nothing is as it seems at first, and friendship is a word taken too lightly. Both Cibele and Agatha, while initially very different, become cutthroat 'bitches' stopping at nothing to achieve their objectives, even if the assumptions their fears are based upon are far from reality. Barbosa shows a twisted side of femininity, where looks are everything and sex is a means that justifies the end.
But the book is about more than women taking advantage of each other and their surroundings. It is also a story of redemption and forgiveness. Throughout the book, Barbosa explores certain religious themes (religion shaped one character's past and another's future) that serve as a statement on humanity in general. Not only that, she also explores the controversial notion of hell being here and now (for some) which, while not widely accepted by Christians, is in line with Eastern religions and the concept of karma.
Overall, this was an interesting and enjoyable read. While I would personally opt for a more intimate narrative, the story flowed fine in third-person narrative. There were no awkward time shifts and all flashbacks served their purpose. Agatha's life turned out as one would have expected, however, both Amy and Cibele's development came as a surprise. There were some minor repetition and edit issues, however, none distracting enough to take away from the reading experience. I'm glad this book found its way to my desk.