Bestselling author Tina McElroy Ansa is back with another tale from Mulberry, Georgia, the richly drawn fictional town and home of the extraordinary Lena McPherson. Lena, now forty-five and tired of being "the hand everyone fans with," has grown weary of shouldering the town's problems and wants to find a little love and companionship for herself. So she and a friend perform a supernatural ritual to conjure up a man for Lena. She gets one all right: a ghost named Herman who, though dead for one hundred years, is full of life and all man. His love changes Lena's life forever, satisfying as never before both her physical and spiritual needs. Filled with the same "humor, grace, and great respect for power of the particular" (The New York Times Book Review) as her previous critically acclaimed novels, Baby of the Family and Ugly Ways, The Hand I Fan With is yet another memorable and life-affirming tale from one of America's best-loved authors.
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December 28, 1997
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Excerpt from The Hand I Fan With by Tina McElroy Ansa
Dropping her sweater on the back of a high-back cane rocker, Lena walked to the oversized French doors overlooking the deck, her yard beyond and the river beyond that and threw them open. Many nights she slept with the alarm system off so she could leave the French doors on that side of the house open and feel the night air and the breeze from the river. The railings around the edges of the sprawling winding cypress deck that wrapped around the house and a huge nearby oak tree were a mass of tiny white flowers and dark shiny cupped leaves that exuded a heavy exotically sweet smell all the way over to where Lena stood inside the door. The scent of the jasmine drew her to the door and outside. She was surprised at the changes out there. It seemed that in the week since Sister had come through on her way to a year's sabbatical in Sierra Leone and they had been out on the deck, vines and trees and plants on her property had exploded with color, scent and life. Azalea bushes that were mere shrubbery the week before were now mountains of white and pink and red blossoms. The weeping willows and weeping mulberry trees had been mere reeds blowing in the March wind. Now they were all--fifteen of them along the riverbanks--shimmering with the verdant haze of new growth. Among the willows and mulberry and the azaleas and tangles of wisteria, a powwow of lightning bugs seemed to be assembling. Lena didn't know when she had seen so many among her woods. "It's so early in the year, not even early summer, for them to be around," she said as she stood there watching the fairy show the insects were putting on in the woods. She had to chuckle as her gaze landed on the remnants of the ceremony she and Sister had performed out on the deck--"It's best if it takes place outside," Sister had said--in the light of the new moon. "Lena, youarea little foolish fool," she said to herself gently. It had been a ceremony to summon up a man for Lena, a wonderful man, a sexy man, a wise man, a generous-spirited man, a smart man, a funny man, a loyal man,herman. All week, she had felt a little silly telling James Petersen not to disturb the site, but Sister had warned her not to move any of the elements of the ceremony ("Even if it rains") or the rites would be void or the results turned inside out. James had silently shook his head, chuckled and said, "Okay." The half-burned candles; the silver and black snakeskin that was a twenty-five-year-old gift from her brother Edward, who was obsessed with reptiles; the vial of salt; the pictures of saints; the water from Florida. All the elements were still there. They had both been a bit tipsy from the home brew Sister had smuggled in from her last trip to Guadeloupe. "Girl, as long as I have a piece of your hair or one of your fingernail clippings and your picture with me in the bag," she would tell Lena all the time after some trip in which she had safely and easily brought back contraband, "I can get anything I want through any customs in the world. They just wave me on through." She had warned Lena, "This stuff is strong, yeah. This stuff don't play," when she set the tall recycled rum bottle on the deep long picnic table that had once sat in Lena's family's breakfast room. But they poured themselves a couple of fingers of the smooth strong brew into two crystal goblets. And while they stood and sampled from the pots of delicious food on the stove, they kept sipping. "Shoot, Lena, I remember the kind of stuff you used to do down home at school and the dreams and night visio