Child of God: A Novel [NOOK Book]

Overview

Everybody knows everybody else's business in Downtown, Tennessee. Neighbors while away afternoons at the local bar, swapping rumors about voodoo, incest, and illegitimate children. Usually they're gossiping about the Boten clan.
In this epic family saga, Lolita Files unveils the hidden lives of three generations of the Boten family. She introduces us to Grandma Amalie, a mother so fiercely protective, she will quietly sacrifice everything for her son. There's Grace, who ...
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Child of God: A Novel

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Overview

Everybody knows everybody else's business in Downtown, Tennessee. Neighbors while away afternoons at the local bar, swapping rumors about voodoo, incest, and illegitimate children. Usually they're gossiping about the Boten clan.
In this epic family saga, Lolita Files unveils the hidden lives of three generations of the Boten family. She introduces us to Grandma Amalie, a mother so fiercely protective, she will quietly sacrifice everything for her son. There's Grace, who conceals the identity of her child's father for more than twenty years. There's Aunt Sukie, whose strange power over her husband, Walter, is matched only by the strength of her dark magic. And then there's Lay, the bad seed, whose secret betrayals will cost his family dearly.
The family's past begins rising to the surface when a mysterious fire takes the life of young Ophelia Boten's infant son. The tragedy sets the family in motion, its members on a quest for self-discovery that will lead them to the drug world of inner-city Detroit, a midwestern college campus, the jungles of Vietnam, and back again. Ophelia sets her own course, one that will ultimately bring her into the arms of a caring and benevolent lover. But before she can embrace her new life and begin a family of her own, she must fully understand and accept the Boten clan's tormented legacy.
Inspired by Shakespeare's Hamlet, Child of God is a story of family bonds, of forbidden love, of sacrifice and redemption. Moving deftly forward and backward in time, the narrative weaves the past with the present, and the family's mistakes echo unforgettably through each successive generation. As rich as it is rewarding, this is Lolita Files's most ambitious novel to date.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
From the author of Scenes from a Sistah comes this saga of a family cast about by the winds of fate and torn apart by love and fear. Entwining the stories of two generations of the Boten clan of Downtown, Tenn., Files has created a lurid play of murder, incest, rape and deceit worthy of the Shakespearean names of her characters. She references Hamlet, but this spectacle might find a better comparison in Titus Andronicus. Ophelia Boten is the product of an incestuous union between her mother, Grace, and her latently homosexual uncle, Walter. Unaware of her own origins or the tragedies of her family's past, Ophelia is soon pregnant with a love child of her own, courtesy of her vicious older brother, Lay (short for Laertes). Lay is sent off to Detroit, where he becomes a heroin dealer, and their infant son Hamlet perishes in a fire that may or may not have been started deliberately by Sukie, Walter's voodoo witch of a wife. Unsurprisingly, the family unravels even further, and the narrative eventually degenerates into more murders, fires, addictions, rapes and just about everything else under the sun. Files's writing is serviceable, but fails to lift this soap opera up to a truly moving level, leaving the flat characters to carry out the Herculean task of transforming the overblown drama into something real and poignant. Throughout it all, Files harps on the power of love, both driving the characters further into self-destruction and bringing some eventual redemption but the plot is too unwieldy and the brushstrokes too broad for this tragedy to escape predictability and garishness. Agent, Warren Frazier of John Hawkins Assoc.; 7-city author tour. (Aug. 14) Copyright 2001 Cahners BusinessInformation.
Kirkus Reviews
Deadly knitting needles, incestuous sibling, burning houses, and voodoo spells are just a few of the over-the-top plot devices in this rollicking, racy, sometimes hammy multigenerational tale from Files ("Getting to the Good Part", 1998, etc.). The narrative begins in 1966 with the death of Ophelia's baby Hamlet (a few characters' names and a lot of violent deaths constitute the main similarities between Files's novel and Shakespeare's play), then weaves back and forth through her family's troubled past. Siblings Grace and Walter, born and raised in rural Tennessee, find comfort from the their father's rages in their love for each other. But when he discovers Grace and Walter playing naked by the river, he beats them so fiercely that their mother kills her husband to save her children. Years later, when she finds the two playing a more advanced version of the game, she also kills herself. Grace becomes pregnant by her brother, marries kind Big Daddy, and bears Ophelia. Walter runs off to New Orleans, where he meets the beautiful but deadly Sukie. She may have already killed her sister and father, and her mother goes missing very shortly after Walter arrives in town; by the time he returns to Tennessee, Sukie is his wife. The newlyweds move in near Grace and Big Daddy, so Sukie can conveniently work her black magic. Grace and Big Daddy have two sons, the impressionable Polo and the sadistic Lay, who gets lessons from Aunt Sukie in the art of destroying others. After he makes Ophelia pregnant with Hamlet, Lay is sent to Detroit and quickly becomes a fearsome drug-dealer, soon involving sweet Polo in his schemes. Much, much more occurs in a tale busy enough to satisfy the requirements ofseveral novels-or Elizabethan tragedies. Few of the developments are happy, though at end Ophelia manages to overcome the curse of her name. In summary: ridiculous but, in reading, undeniably entertaining.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780743218481
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publication date: 8/14/2002
  • Sold by: SIMON & SCHUSTER
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 279,233
  • File size: 608 KB

Meet the Author

Lolita Files is the author of Tastes Like Chicken, Child of God, Blind Ambitions, Getting to the Good Part, and Scenes from a Sistah. Currently developing projects for television and film, Files has a degree in broadcast journalism and lives outside of Los Angeles.
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Read an Excerpt


Chapter One

There's no sweeter stench than the scent of a burning baby.

Grace raced across the yard, her steps hastened by the cries upon the wind.

"Somebody help me," she cried. "My grandbaby's trapped inside the house."

She grabbed a large branch and began to beat against a window. It broke away and released a menacing gust of fire that licked the edges of her hair and sent her reeling backward in a choking fit.

The anguished cries from inside the house escaped through the broken pane, hanging upon the wind.

"Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa..."

It was a wild and airy sound, a wailing that trailed off into a whirlwind of echoes. In the midst of the biting-cold night, the house was engulfed in a blizzard of flames.

Polo stood out front, drenched in sweat, flinging buckets of water. The fire became more savage with each bucket he threw. Grace found her footing again and began beating her house with another tree branch.

"Mama, it's not slowing down," Polo said, out of breath. "It's getting bigger. The water's making it worse."

"Just keep trying. It's got to be stopped."

"Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa..."

The cries of the baby were deafening.

Polo threw away the bucket and grabbed a tree branch. He followed his mother's lead and began to swat at the fire.

Grace lifted her nose, catching the scent of the wind.

"Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God." She fell to her knees in exhaustion.

"Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa..."

The haunting cry was like a lingering note in a dirge. Then it faded into the night and was never heard by Grace or Polo again.

Grace raised her head and listened to the sound as it waned. Silent tears fell onto the dusty earth. If not for the gentle shaking of her shoulders as she dropped her head into her hands, Polo would not have known she was crying.

"My grandbaby is dead."

Polo dropped on his knees in the dirt beside her, trying to make out her words as she sobbed into her soot-stained palms. He thought she was asking about his sister. He wrapped his arms around her in a tight embrace.

"Mama, Ophelia's all right," he said. "She's out there by them fir trees."

Ophelia stood in the shadows of the woods, watching the fire gut the house. In the dazzling glow of the flames, she had seen her mother and brother trying to get to the baby and calm the blaze.

Grace's sobs grew heavy as the soot from her hands now covered her face. Her long black satiny hair hung loose and tangled around her head. Polo held his mother close, rocking her in his arms.

The fire raged on before them, consuming the house.

"Mama, we couldn't do nuthin'," said Polo. "The baby was 'sleep when we went next door. It wasn't nothing burning in the house. The stove wasn't even on. The baby was 'sleep."

"How we gon' tell Ophelia about the baby?"

The look of terror and questioning in his mother's eyes frightened him.

"I think she already know. Look like she came from out by the barn. That's why she standing by them trees."

"What was she doing over there?" Grace asked. She was almost hysterical.

"I'on know, Mama. She always be in the barn." He rocked his mother faster. "She ain't crying or even coming over here to ask 'bout the baby. I'on know, maybe she in shock. I guess she already knows he's dead."

At those words, Grace fell onto her son's chest and began to cry again.

As the two held each other, the wooden porch collapsed, and the entire house folded in on itself.

Polo's girlfriend came running from across the field.

"I could see it from my house," she said. "I could see the flames just shooting up into the sky."

Polo ignored her, rocking his mother. Coolie ran next door to Polo's uncle's house for more water. She returned, hurling the bucket so hard, the entire thing flew into the flames.

"What are you doing?" Polo cried. "The house can't be saved, it's already gone."

"We gotta put the fire out," she said. She ran next door for more water. Her short, curly hair was sticking to her face and neck in sweaty ringlets, and her peach-colored skin was flushed from the heat. She ran closer to the house. The fire licked at her, rushing up the front of her skirt.

She screamed and danced around in a frenzy.

Polo let go of his mother and leaped upon his girlfriend, throwing her to the ground. The fire on her skirt was extinguished as they rolled in the dust. Smoke rose from the hem in a funky puff.

A car approached in the distance. Grace's husband, Big Daddy, sped toward them in his bright yellow '59 Ford. Before he had turned the engine off, Big Daddy and Grace's brother, Walter, were dashing out of the car, running to the house. Within seconds they realized there was nothing either of them could do to save it.

Big Daddy rushed over to Grace. Walter stood rooted, staring at the fantastic flames.

"What happened, baby?" Big Daddy said in his booming voice.

Grace's sobbing grew louder.

"We was all next door just sittin' around, like we've done a hundred times before. Hamlet was in there. We didn't want to disturb him since he was 'sleep. The next thing you know, it's this fire. My baby's little boy done died in there."

Big Daddy grabbed his head and dropped to his knees beside her. He wrapped his tree-trunk arms around her and released his muffled cries deep within the security of her shoulder.

Walter stood above them. "Ain't nuthin' we can do but let it burn out," he said. "It's too far gone now."

He wanted to hug and comfort his sister, but Big Daddy and his overpowering strength were in the way.

"Where's Ophelia?" Big Daddy asked, choking back tears.

He looked around for his daughter amid the fire and smoke. Polo and Coolie pointed in the direction of the trees. Big Daddy turned to see Ophelia facedown in the dirt, her hands digging deep into the earth. Her body was wracked with sobs as they all watched her, alone in her pain.

From the porch next door, Sukie looked out. She glanced at her husband, Walter, who was still staring down at Grace and Big Daddy. She looked at the burning house, now a frame shrouded in the brilliance of the fire. She noticed Ophelia in the thicket of trees, covered with dirt and leaves as she grieved in the darkness.

Sukie shook her head.

With a slow turn, she sucked her tongue and went into the house to mop up all the water Polo and Coolie had wasted.

Copyright © 2001 by Lolita Files

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First Chapter

Chapter One

There's no sweeter stench than the scent of a burning baby.

Grace raced across the yard, her steps hastened by the cries upon the wind.

"Somebody help me," she cried. "My grandbaby's trapped inside the house."

She grabbed a large branch and began to beat against a window. It broke away and released a menacing gust of fire that licked the edges of her hair and sent her reeling backward in a choking fit.

The anguished cries from inside the house escaped through the broken pane, hanging upon the wind.

"Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa..."

It was a wild and airy sound, a wailing that trailed off into a whirlwind of echoes. In the midst of the biting-cold night, the house was engulfed in a blizzard of flames.

Polo stood out front, drenched in sweat, flinging buckets of water. The fire became more savage with each bucket he threw. Grace found her footing again and began beating her house with another tree branch.

"Mama, it's not slowing down," Polo said, out of breath. "It's getting bigger. The water's making it worse."

"Just keep trying. It's got to be stopped."

"Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa..."

The cries of the baby were deafening.

Polo threw away the bucket and grabbed a tree branch. He followed his mother's lead and began to swat at the fire.

Grace lifted her nose, catching the scent of the wind.

"Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God." She fell to her knees in exhaustion.

"Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa..."

The haunting cry was like a lingering note in a dirge. Then it faded into the night and was never heard by Grace or Polo again.

Grace raised her head and listened to the sound as it waned. Silent tears fell onto the dusty earth. If not for the gentle shaking of her shoulders as she dropped her head into her hands, Polo would not have known she was crying.

"My grandbaby is dead."

Polo dropped on his knees in the dirt beside her, trying to make out her words as she sobbed into her soot-stained palms. He thought she was asking about his sister. He wrapped his arms around her in a tight embrace.

"Mama, Ophelia's all right," he said. "She's out there by them fir trees."

Ophelia stood in the shadows of the woods, watching the fire gut the house. In the dazzling glow of the flames, she had seen her mother and brother trying to get to the baby and calm the blaze.

Grace's sobs grew heavy as the soot from her hands now covered her face. Her long black satiny hair hung loose and tangled around her head. Polo held his mother close, rocking her in his arms.

The fire raged on before them, consuming the house.

"Mama, we couldn't do nuthin'," said Polo. "The baby was 'sleep when we went next door. It wasn't nothing burning in the house. The stove wasn't even on. The baby was 'sleep."

"How we gon' tell Ophelia about the baby?"

The look of terror and questioning in his mother's eyes frightened him.

"I think she already know. Look like she came from out by the barn. That's why she standing by them trees."

"What was she doing over there?" Grace asked. She was almost hysterical.

"I'on know, Mama. She always be in the barn." He rocked his mother faster. "She ain't crying or even coming over here to ask 'bout the baby. I'on know, maybe she in shock. I guess she already knows he's dead."

At those words, Grace fell onto her son's chest and began to cry again.

As the two held each other, the wooden porch collapsed, and the entire house folded in on itself.

Polo's girlfriend came running from across the field.

"I could see it from my house," she said. "I could see the flames just shooting up into the sky."

Polo ignored her, rocking his mother. Coolie ran next door to Polo's uncle's house for more water. She returned, hurling the bucket so hard, the entire thing flew into the flames.

"What are you doing?" Polo cried. "The house can't be saved, it's already gone."

"We gotta put the fire out," she said. She ran next door for more water. Her short, curly hair was sticking to her face and neck in sweaty ringlets, and her peach-colored skin was flushed from the heat. She ran closer to the house. The fire licked at her, rushing up the front of her skirt.

She screamed and danced around in a frenzy.

Polo let go of his mother and leaped upon his girlfriend, throwing her to the ground. The fire on her skirt was extinguished as they rolled in the dust. Smoke rose from the hem in a funky puff.

A car approached in the distance. Grace's husband, Big Daddy, sped toward them in his bright yellow '59 Ford. Before he had turned the engine off, Big Daddy and Grace's brother, Walter, were dashing out of the car, running to the house. Within seconds they realized there was nothing either of them could do to save it.

Big Daddy rushed over to Grace. Walter stood rooted, staring at the fantastic flames.

"What happened, baby?" Big Daddy said in his booming voice.

Grace's sobbing grew louder.

"We was all next door just sittin' around, like we've done a hundred times before. Hamlet was in there. We didn't want to disturb him since he was 'sleep. The next thing you know, it's this fire. My baby's little boy done died in there."

Big Daddy grabbed his head and dropped to his knees beside her. He wrapped his tree-trunk arms around her and released his muffled cries deep within the security of her shoulder.

Walter stood above them. "Ain't nuthin' we can do but let it burn out," he said. "It's too far gone now."

He wanted to hug and comfort his sister, but Big Daddy and his overpowering strength were in the way.

"Where's Ophelia?" Big Daddy asked, choking back tears.

He looked around for his daughter amid the fire and smoke. Polo and Coolie pointed in the direction of the trees. Big Daddy turned to see Ophelia facedown in the dirt, her hands digging deep into the earth. Her body was wracked with sobs as they all watched her, alone in her pain.

From the porch next door, Sukie looked out. She glanced at her husband, Walter, who was still staring down at Grace and Big Daddy. She looked at the burning house, now a frame shrouded in the brilliance of the fire. She noticed Ophelia in the thicket of trees, covered with dirt and leaves as she grieved in the darkness.

Sukie shook her head.

With a slow turn, she sucked her tongue and went into the house to mop up all the water Polo and Coolie had wasted.

Copyright © 2001 by Lolita Files

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 72 )
Rating Distribution

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 72 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 25, 2013

    Amesn

    Amean

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 24, 2012

    Really Good Book

    This book takes you throguh so many twists and turns. A definate great read

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 27, 2012

    Highly Highly Recommend!!!

    Files, is an excellent author. I am truly grateful to have read this book. Yes, it is still my favorite since it was first published. It is riveting and provides vivid material that locks you into the story.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 6, 2012

    Great story telling...

    My bookclub just chose this book and I read this book in a couple of days. I could not put my nook down. The generational secrets keep the book going, and Uncle Hailey shedding light on some things just brings it all together. I truly enjoyed the book. This was a new author for me, but awesome arrangment.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 19, 2012

    What a great read

    I chose this book seven years ago for my book club to read.OH what a discussion we had that day.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 14, 2012

    Good read

    Good book that has twists and turns

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 18, 2011

    Must read

    WOW!!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 23, 2011

    I couldn't put it down!!!

    This is absolutely the best book I have ever read. I started reading it and before I knew it, I was done 4 hours later. This was an amazing read and I couldn't have asked for anything better.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 17, 2011

    MUST Read!

    This is THE best book I have read....ever! Do not hesitate to purchase it!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 25, 2011

    Best book ever!!

    I got this book as a 16th birthday present and loved i almost finished it the day i got but forced myself to rest then finish it the next cause frankly i didnt want it end lolita files had always been so honest and blunt in her work this is by far one of my fav books ive read.

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  • Posted April 3, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Highly Recommended!

    Great book, this book began and ended Good....Couldn't put book.down.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 26, 2011

    Must Read

    Wow!!! This book was excellent!! I could not put it down!!! You have to read it.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted January 16, 2011

    A Great Read!

    My book club read this book back in 2002 and meet the author. Still this day we talk about how much we love this book. It is wonderful read I recommend it to all.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted December 30, 2010

    great read

    this book is one of the best that i have read the character and plot development is great one of my favorites

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted December 27, 2010

    Good Reading

    I read this book years ago, but it was great! I remember not being able to put it down... i read it in two days.....

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted September 25, 2010

    High Recommend MUST HAVE

    I could not stop reading this book, it will take you on a journey of crying, laughing, and crying again. I love this book so much I have every book this lady have ever published, and all of her books are just as wonderful. Ms. Files please don't ever stop writing, you warm my heart with your words, you bring me into your stories, its like I am there with the characters but yet I am reading the story as well. LOVE IT!!!

    MS. R

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 24, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Child of God Review

    Absolutly a page turner. I don't know about the title for this book but I was so into it, I turned a daily run into a walk so that I could read this on the track. Some things that happen is a tad bit creepy but towards the end it will all come togeather. And if you are in a bookclub this book will keep the conversation going.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 11, 2010

    Wonderful Book

    This is one of the best books I have read in a long time. The story takes you into the lives of the Boten family, which is entwined with generations of incestuous relationships that cause secrets and lies to be exposed. I thought the characters were very well developed, I had a good sense of who they were and what they were thinking. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who wants to read a family drama, mixed with a little black magic.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted April 7, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Child of God....excellent

    This book keeps you interested throughout and the characters are unique. I enjoyed this book very much and would recommend it to all.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 17, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    An originial and a good read.

    The book was a page turner. It was orginal and had a good storyline. It was a little confusing at first because of the introduction of different characters. But once I figured it out it was a home stretch from there. Brothers and Sisters making love to each other was hard for me to grasp but Lolita did a good job of writing the story. I would recommend this book to bookclubs and friends. It is most definitely a conversational piece of work. The last chapter threw me off a little. I would have thought it would have been told by another character in the book and not a character that was introduce next to the last chapter. Overall An original and good read!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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