With the unique blend of truth and humor that made her first novel, What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day . . ., a huge bestseller, Pearl Cleage returns with an extraordinary novel that is rich in character, steeped in sisterhood, and bursting with unexpected love . . . and maybe just a little magic.
Depending on the time of day, Regina Burns is a woman on the edge of a nervous breakdown or an overdue breakthrough. One shattered heart and six months of rehab have left her wary and shell-shocked--especially with the prospect of taking a temporary consulting job in Atlanta, a move that would allow Regina to rescue the family home that she borrowed against when she was "a stomp down dope fiend." Her stone-faced banker has grudgingly agreed to give her sixty days to settle her debts or lose the house.
Returning to Atlanta is a big risk. Last time Regina was there, she lost track of who she was and what she wanted. There's a lot of emotional baggage with her new employer, Beth Davis. Can she really forgive Beth for breaking up her wedding plans on New Year's Eve because she just didn't think Regina was good enough to marry her son?
Meanwhile, Regina's visionary Aunt Abbie has told her to be on the lookout for a handsome stranger with "the ocean in his eyes" who has a bone to pick and a promise to keep. Then a blue-eyed brother appears on the streets of Afro-Atlanta wearing a black cashmere overcoat, flashing a dazzling smile, and lending a helping hand when Regina needs it most. But between falling for Blue Hamilton and dealing with Beth, secrets will emerge that will threaten to send her life twisting in surprising new directions.
Past is prologue-literally-for a young African-American woman making a fresh start in Cleage's (What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day...) highly readable third novel. Just out of rehab and nearly bankrupt, 34-year-old Regina Burns receives a much-needed job offer from motivational speaker Beth Davis, a former employer. At 24, Regina went to work for Beth as a speechwriter and special assistant, helping Beth bring her message of empowerment to a growing national audience. The two women were accompanied by Beth's 20-something only child, known to all as Son. Regina fell in love with Son, but agreed to hide the romance from disapproving Beth. When they were discovered, Son broke up with Regina rather than upset his mother, driving Regina back home to D.C. and into a cocaine habit. Just as she is on the verge of losing everything, word of Son's death in New York on September 11 shocks Regina into rehab. When Beth decides to donate Son's papers to his alma mater, Morehouse College, she hires Regina to coordinate the project. Upon arriving in Atlanta, Regina runs into charismatic Blue Hamilton, an ex-singer who becomes her landlord. Blue wields an odd power over a peaceful city enclave bordered by threatening neighborhoods-and over Regina as well. As she works quickly to organize Son's papers, Regina must decide what to do with growing evidence of a secret life he kept hidden from Beth. At the same time Regina fears for Blue's safety when neighborhood tensions begin to escalate. The novel takes a creative path to a predictable ending, neatly resolving several plot lines. Regina is a delightful narrator: frank, self-aware and keenly observant. Cleage stumbles with the story's brief detour into the supernatural, but this distracting misstep only slightly diminishes the story's appeal. 8-city author tour. (Sept.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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February 27, 2006
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Excerpt from Some Things I Never Thought I'd Do by Pearl Cleage
1 I have really screwed up now. This man is actually sitting behind that great big desk telling me he’s going to take my house. The house I was born in! The house my mother was born in! He must be crazy. I know I’m the one who borrowed against it. I know I’m the one who didn’t make the payments on time. I know all that. That’s the first thing they teach you in rehab, to accept responsibility for the stuff you did when you were a stomp-down dope fiend, and I do, but I never thought they would actually take the house. What good is trying to reform if you have to spend the rest of your life paying for the stupid things you did when you still got high and didn’t give a damn? Of course, I don’t say all that to this little weasel-faced white man who probably has no life at all outside of this windowless office where he gets to bring up your file on his computer and then swivel it around so you can see all those missed payments and bounced checks, daring you to deny them. He clearly does not want to hear my tale of woe. Having your heart broken and thinking cocaine can fix it does not qualify as an appropriate topic for discussion with your banker. I know this from experience, so I skip the explanations and start right in on the serious begging. Please, I say, I’m okay now. I just got a good job. I’ll have enough to bring everything current if you can just give me a little more time. He ignores me. He’s heard all this before. He knows the house has been in our family for three generations. He knows I was born there. He knows my grandparents got married there. He knows it is more than a house. That it is an essential part of our family history, our memories, our dreams. He knows it is a sacred trust passed from one woman in our family, to the next one, and the next one, and, finally, to me. He knows all this because I have told him many times. I want him to understand that losing this place is not an option. I’m not going to greet my mama in paradise and tell her I snorted up her mama’s house because I wanted a man who didn’t want me. If I tell her that, I’ll have to tell her that during that same amazing eighteen months, I also lost my credibility as a journalist by sleeping with all the edi- tors I wasn’t doing drugs with, missing deadlines like it was a sport, and, in the last few months before I finally went into rehab, behaving badly at several important Washington social events, culminating in the unforgettable evening when I cussed out a congressman, spilled a drink on his wife, and wrecked my car all in one forty-five-minute period. But that was then. This is now. I’ve been clean for almost six months, and as soon as I get paid from this new job, I’ll pay the weasel what I owe and he can go swivel his screen at some other poor fool. All I need is a ninety-day extension. Just three months, I hear myself still begging. I’ll be able to bring everything current. I promise! The weasel raises his eyebrows to let me know he doesn’t buy it for one second. He glances down at the screen again, and I mentally prepare myself to segue from begging to groveling. I’m ready to roll around on the floor and tear my hair, if that’s what it takes. I’m the one who messed everything up, but I’m also the one who is going to make it right. Starting with this house. The weasel is still staring at the screen. He better hope whatever he needs to see there to give me my ninety days shows up in the next sixty seconds because I am this close to dragging him across that desk and whipping his smug little ass until somebody comes to pull me off him. This close. Then he sighs deeply and looks up. Sixty days, he says, like it’s killing him. I&