Shhhhhhhh! is the gripping tale of the struggles faced by Wynona Wyatt, a young African American girl growing up in the boondocks of New Orleans. Faced with a mother who wanted nothing to do with children, a sexually abusive 'uncle', the lies and deceit throughout her mother's family, and the loss of her father early in her life, Wynona learns to depend on herself and God in place of her family. Wynona Wyatt is the youngest child of Lemora and Woody, a timid girl who finds herself imbedded in the secrets of her mother's past. She is reminded constantly as she grows that she was never wanted by her mother, a memory which haunts the girl through her womanhood. Wynona witnesses her mother's tirades against her father on a daily basis, and though she proves herself intelligent and capable, she still holds on to the dagger wounds from her mother. Lemora Cavanaugh had chosen, after her childhood was full of raising her mother's children, she wanted nothing to do with children, not even her own. Her tough-as-nails life had crushed all of her dreams and desires, leaving only the secret that carried through her family for two generations - maintain the fa?ade of regality, no matter what. She disguises her own abuse through the caring of her siblings, adding an extra son to the Cavanaugh clan. It isn't until she meets Woody Wyatt that she attempts, and fails, to express the more tender emotions of desire. Though her mother shovels nothing but darkness and mistrust at the girl, Wynona is shown the way to a happy heart by her father, Woody. Woody teaches Wynona the core values of kindness, patience, and looking for the beauty in the minutest things. Together, Woody and Wynona explore similar interests and find a mutual love in music. Woody Wyatt is the strong, caring father who tries to show Lemora how to love life instead of filling it with dread and distrust. His love for Lemora and their children is the key that keeps Wynona struggling to overcome her mother's demons. He shows patience and kindness where Lemora denies the family the love and respect desired by the kids. His untimely death, however, hefts more weight on his little girl's shoulders. For the first time in her young life, Wynona loses the music that filled her heart and lifted her spirits. After the loss of her father and best friend, Wynona feels the pangs of terror stronger than ever. No longer does she have at her disposal any form of trust, love, or security. Yet, through it all, Wynona finds within herself the courage and strength to carry on. Whereas Wynona turns to her father and his love for music to escape her tortured existence before his death, her older brother, Winston, being physically and emotionally abused himself turns to drugs as a means of blocking out the truth which eventually leads Winston to a destructive death. He leaves behind a legacy of his own secrets. Bringing more drama to the family's life, Lemora's 'brother' Lamar moves in with them almost on a permanent basis. Lamar becomes an even bigger nightmare to Wynona and her brother Winston, finding ways to verbally, physically and sexually abuse both children in the house which was to be the safe haven provided by Woody. It is only after Lamar's funeral that Wynona learns the truth about Lamar's birth-mother - the same woman who gave birth to her brother and her. Wynona witnesses and experiences these tribulations, but instead of letting them bring her to the depths of despair, she pulls herself through by following her heart, her father's wisdom, and God's grace. She meets and falls in love with Rory, the handsome, strong, sensitive man who becomes her saving grace. The love affair lasts through some difficulties: an unplanned pregnancy lost to miscarriage, the mistrust of Wynona's mother, and Wynona's secretive past abuse, but Wynona is determined to make it work. Eventually, the two marry, and are blessed with a beautiful baby boy they name Chauncey. But, as seems Wynona's destiny, the fairy tale love affair soon loses its luster to infidelity. The discovery of Rory's extra-marital affairs weakens the growing sense of trust Wynona is beginning to experience, and with it, she feels the need to make a change in her life. Wynona and Chauncey move to Atlanta and start life anew. Atlanta has its own trials, between the move and finding work, to schools and custody. Wynona learns the importance of her work, her attitude, and always being prepared for anything anyone can dish out. Yet, through it all, she is still down-hearted and it seems the rainbows are too few and far between. Chauncey is sent back to New Orleans for his education, leaving Wynona alone in the big city. She develops a workaholic attitude, spending as much time as possible at her job, and even getting secondary part-time employment. Still, her family questions her actions, sneering and whispering about what and how Wynona affords her new lifestyle. Not to be deterred, she strives harder to win her family's approval by offering every available resource she has to them, only to have it squandered in her face. Without warning, Wynona's health takes a turn for the worse, leaving her blind in her right eye. She is diagnosed with a brain tumor, and is informed the doctors will have to operate. Facing the fear of the surgery, she reaches out once again to her mother and brother, and for the first time in her life, Wynona feels truly loved and respected by her family. Winston leaves New Orleans to be with her during surgery and recovery, and along with a co-worker/friend of Wynona's, the three work together toward recovery. The bliss of finally having a wonderful relationship with her family are quickly extinguished, however, as shortly after Winston's return to New Orleans, he is found dead of a drug-related crime. Within a few years, her relatives call upon her for refuge from Hurricane Katrina. Lemora's house is destroyed, as is much of the city. Wynona once again stretches out her heart, body, and soul to assist her mother, leaving behind all she loves in Atlanta and returning to New Orleans. The struggle again ensues between mother and daughter, Lemora falling into dementia and not recognizing that Wynona is trying to help instead of hurt her. And Wynona still shows patience, kindness, and love to her family, growing stronger regardless of being silenced at every turn. Shhhhhh! brings compassion and courage to the reader, presenting a forum on which the least suspected seed of love can grow strong and beautiful even among the weeds.
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January 15, 2010
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