Friday, June 27, 2014

Behind the Shades: Hope Beyond the Darkness / Sheila Raye Charles

Reviewed by: Sooz

Genre: Memoir/Christian

Approximate word count: 145,000-150,000 words

Kindle  US: YES  UK: YES  Nook: YES  Smashwords: NO  Paper: YES
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Sheila Raye Charles is one of Ray Charles’ 12 children. Sheila had a difficult life as she was in and out of jail. She is also a singer and has put out a couple of CDs.


Sheila Raye Charles recounts her life when she had to spend 15 months in jail. While there, she finds the grace of God to help her in recovery. She also recounts other stories that have shaped her life, and she talks about her relationship with her father, Ray Charles.


The moment I saw Sheila Raye Charles’ book in the queue, I immediately wanted to read it. She’s the daughter of superstar Ray Charles, and tells her story about being in prison, being neglected by her father and her road to redemption.

There is a fine story in there; unfortunately, it was weighed down by too much of what didn’t matter to the reader. It’s a memoir, and Sheila Raye Charles is going to want to tell her story. Yet, the book got so long that I just wanted it to be over, and I pretty much skimmed the last 20 percent of the book.

She had a tough life. There is no denying that. Sheila is a recovering drug addict who was molested by a family friend when she was a child. This messed her up in so many ways with drugs as a way to bury the pain. She didn’t have much of a relationship with her father, and it seemed she only met him a handful of times. Sheila would have to go through his office to make an appointment if she wanted to see him.

Her road to recovery was tough since she had to do it while in jail for violating her probation. The sad thing is she also has five children, including the last one who was born addicted to crack cocaine. Yet, Sheila doesn’t spend much time talking about them. She does mention about her eldest child Jeanna, who has similar problems it seems when Sheila was that age by running away. But at no point does she even consider her other children who are all living with a family member who took custody.

The book was disjointed, jumping timelines and often having conversations without citing who said what.

One of the interesting aspects was the inclusion of portions of her mother’s manuscript as she wrote about her life with Ray Charles, how the two met and how she fell in love with him. The mother’s story was definitely interesting, and added interesting context. But even this section seemed far too short and then felt like an afterthought the deeper you got into Behind the Shades.

If this book were cut in half, sticking to the main points without Sheila going off on tangents and asking the same question over and over, I might have actually enjoyed this book. Instead, I just wanted it to end.

It should be noted that there is a lot of religious talk in the book. Sheila attributes her recovery and redemption to God. Behind the Shades is very heavy on it, which can be polarizing.


There is a heavy amount of religious talk.

Format/Typo Issues:

No noticeable issues.

Rating: **Two stars


Pete Barber said...

How interesting. As I read your review I wondered: why didn't she use a co-writer. It sounds as though a lot of the issues you had were mechanical, and could have been solved by a ghost-writer and a good editor. By virtue of her genes, she has a platform (a far more difficult asset to attain than writing skills). I can't help but wonder if the book were produced differently (more expertly), maybe she could have still told her story, but reached a wider audience.

Walter Knight said...

Leaving your comfort zone can often be . . . uncomfortable.

Susan Lulgjuraj said...

I definitely think there is a very good and interesting story here. I think the presentation was flawed, and eventually felt like a chore to finish.