ISBN: 9781611882018 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781611882025 (ebook)
ASIN: B00THMCG4U (Kindle edition)
Publisher: The Story Plant
Publication date: April 28, 2015
Mary Jacob grew up as an anomaly. A child of Louisiana in the early sixties, she found little in common with most of the people in her community and in her household, and her best friend was Lavina, the black woman who cooked and cleaned for her family. Now, in the early nineties, Mary Jacob has escaped her history and established a fresh, if imperfect, life for herself in New York. But when she learns of her father's critical illness, she needs to go back home. To a disapproving father and a spiteful sister. To a town decades out of alignment with Mary Jacob's new world. To the memories of Billy Ray, Lavina's son who grew up to be a musical legend whose star burned much too bright.
And to the echoes of a fateful day three decades earlier when three lives changed forever.
A decades-spanning story both intimate and enormous in scope, Lavina is a novel rich in humanity, sharp in its indictments, and stunning in its resolution.
Read an excerpt:
Me, I'm guessin' I'm a haint. Don' know another name for what I am. Ain't no angel 'cause I don' have wings. Anythin' that happen since I die, weren't like I thought it would be. Never seen my mother, the pearly gates of heaven, or the baby girl I lost 'for I had Billy Ray. What I sees is what I lef behind.
A deep green summer in nineteen hundred and sixty three. Hot it were, but it were always hot hot in Louisiana in August. Some say you could fry chicken eggs on the cement. I died that summer, nearly every colored person in Murpheysfield come to my funeral. Coffin were shut, had to be. Tem at the church, they did everythin' but call me Saint Lavina, her who died serving the Lord in the path for freedom. Why there was even a picture of me on the funeral program. Me in my best wig.
I sees two houses. My own, a rundown, no-count place I never finish payin' on with a dirt-poor yard and a broken front step. When it rain, the front flood and when it don', it just set there filled with red dirt and dust. Got too lazy to plant me any zinnias. Go inside and there's that old bathtub a settin’ there in the kitchen and the hot water heater rustin' in the corner where the spiders spin them threads. Spider webs on account of I didn't spend near as much time in my own house as I did over at the Long's. It’s a big ole white house on Fairfield with fourteen rooms I kept clean with my own hands and knees, lemon wax, and my purple feather duster.
I lef two chirrun behind, and them two I can see like it were yesterday. My own boy, golden brown and shinin', comin' soon on bein' a man. A handsome man as you'd ever see. Little harmonica in his hand, he were born to play that thing, funny sound it make, touch you way down in your toes. He Billy Ray Davis, born at the Confederate Charity Hospital, middle of the night in November. Next day I took him home 'cause they needs the bed and we was strong.
Now, my girl, she were white as an egg, born to a sickly woman what never take care a her. She start off growin' like some old weed in the yard. I knows right away she stronger than any of them pretty flowers. She Mary Jacob and she settin' at the kitchen table with her nose in some thick old book. She tappin' on the black-and-white floor. Tat chile, she love to read. And when she read, she tap.
You can't turn back the hands of time. Te seasons they come and go, no matter that you ain't there no more to feel the hot of August and September turn into the cool of October. And you can't feel November in your knee when November come. But you remember what your life was, and a lot of it were full of pain like your knee always was. Pain don' hurt you when you die. Tat ole blackbird pain, he fly away. You ain't happy when you is dead. But you ain't so sad neither. Ain't like living. One moment you is happy, then you turn around you is sad.
Tem that dies watchin' over them that lives and that's the truth. But that's all we can do. Can't reach out and give them two a shake and a talkin' to, like I'd like to. Wouldn't hear me if I did. Tat don' mean I ain't watchin' to see what happen. I is always watchin' . . . I is always watchin'.
Meet the author:
I was born and raised in Louisiana, but left for New York after graduating from Tulane. I worked very hard to get rid of my southern accent, and now I wish I hadn't. For many years, I worked in the advertising and fashion industries for Neiman Marcus, Vogue, Lancome, Faberge, and San Rio Toys where I worked on the Hello Kitty Brand. My short fiction has appeared in North Atlantic Review, Fiction, Jewish Women's Literary Journal, and others.
My husband, Joel Goodman and I live in Los Angeles and East Hampton, New York. We have a grown son, Amos Goodman.
Reading a book has always seemed to me to be the greatest magic trick. You hold an inanimate object in your hands, you look down and wham, you're transported into an entirely different reality. You encounter people you know instantly and go to places you've never been before. Deep reading is a relationship of complete trust when it's really working.
To say my best friends are books may be an exaggeration–but my favorite books are like best friends: they make me laugh, they entertain me, we have fun together, I find out appalling things, wonderful things and I'm continually moved.
I never get sick of them (and books never get sick of me) unlike my human friends. Books are also very low maintenance (unlike people) requiring no more than a nice shelf and a little dusting once in a while. And, of course, books don't have anything else to do other than hang out with me (unlike my flesh and blood friends and family who have such busy schedules).
I have an electronic reader now that I like, but am just a little afraid of, that stores thousands of books and that seems to me to be both slightly sinful as well as gluttonous but in the nicest possible way. When I get in bed with my electronic reader and it lights up the dark, I feel like a teenager with a flashlight.
All my close friends are so called creative types; consequently no one really except strangers or half acquaintances ever ask me why I became a writer. I was thinking about it this morning why writing has always seemed to me to be the only thing to do (other than painting or pot throwing or drawing, though I can't do any of those) and that's because writing is the only form of power I really trust. And doesn't involve telling other people what to do. Which I never seem able to do with any kind of authority or enthusiasm.
Fahrenheit 451 is the scariest book that has ever been written.
I'd be insane or dead if it weren't for books.
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