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From the Trade Paperback edition.
Juanita Lewis, a 41-one-year-old African-American, has had it with her feckless offspring: son Rashawn is a drug dealer, other son Randy is in prison for aggravated assault, and daughter Bertie neglects her baby, Teishia. Juanita escapes by reading romances and dreaming of a better life for her family, but it seems like none of them ain’t never going to get out of the Columbus, Ohio, projects—until Juanita quits her nursing job, packs a bag, and hops a bus to get as far away from her troubles as possible. She decides to stop in a tiny Montana town called Paper Moon, where she spots a Help Wanted sign in the window of a diner, breezes into the kitchen, and pretty much takes over. The indignant owner, Jess Gardiner, calls in the seven-foot sheriff, who sizes up the situation and asks Juanita to rustle him up a real breakfast of bacon, eggs, and pancakes, instead of that citified cuisine Jess has been serving. Her skill at down-home cooking wins everyone over in a Montana minute (about three weeks), including lesbian long-haul trucker Penelope Bradshaw, a.k.a. Peaches. Juanita confides her desire to write the story of her life, and Peaches is duly encouraging, introducing her to Millie, an eccentric old lady who rents out rooms in her rambling Victorian house. Millie’s named her numerous cats after her ex-husbands and talks to them all—a habit Juanita soon falls into. Well, there isn’t a hell of a lot else to do in Paper Moon, until strong and silent Jess starts romancing her in his quiet way. He’s nothing like the abusive and irresponsible men who fathered her three good-for-nothing children, and Juanita is ready for love, ifnot a commitment. Her brief taste of freedom has emboldened her, and the open road beckons. What’s next—California? Mexico?
Sitcom characters, lame jokes, weak plot.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
When I was forty-two years old, I decided to run away from home. Just pack up and go.
Wouldn't take dishes or nothin', no "household goods," stuff like that. Just my own stuff. What I could get into two suitcases.
Wasn't runnin' away exactly, just movin' on. I wanted to see things I'd never seen before, go places different from here.
I had been here too long.
Wasn't nothin' happenin' here. Not a damn thing.
Sometimes, you hear people say they want to find themselves. Well, I didn't need to do that. I knew where I was. That was the problem.
When I was a kid, I watched the Popeye cartoons on Saturday mornin' before my momma waked up. Swee' Pea, the baby, he was my favorite. He would feel like he wasn't bein' treated right, so he would tie up all his things in a bandanna (like the ones my son Rashawn wears on his head now) and put it on a pole and crawl away, him in his pjs. And he'd see monsters and China and the ocean-the exciting things he'd never seen before.
It was like a big adventure.
That's what I wanted. A big adventure, all my own.
Now, you know there was a lot workin' against me. I'm not what you call educated or nothin' like that. I ain't never been nowhere, don't have much of a life as it is. Got a COTA bus life-I go where the bus go: to work, to the carry-out, then home.
And I'm not the kinda woman that you would think could have adventures. I'm not brave or smart. Not pretty or important. I ain't nobody you ever heard of. Ha! I'll never be anybody you heard of!
And to most folks, I ain't much. But that's OK. I was smart enough to know that I couldn't stay here. Couldn't keep livingthe same old piece of life, doing the same old thing. Somebody said "life is not a dress rehearsal." I know what that means.
You don't get a second chance.
I think it's time to leave. Juanita's great adventure.
Even if I don't get very far, it will still be farther than I've been.
If Swee' Pea can have an adventure, then so can I.
Now, I didn't come to this way of thinking overnight. It took a long time.
Bertie's voice took me out of my daydream.
"Momma in there?" I heard my daughter yell back to her brother.
"Bertie, she in there," Rashawn yelled back. "She just writin' in that notebook again, that's all. You know how she gets."
"Momma, you in there, or what?"
Bertie's pounding was starting to get on my nerves.
"Whatchu want, Bertie? And quit banging on my door! You gonna tear it down?"
"Sorry, Momma," Bertie said. But she didn't sound like she was sorry. "Momma, can you keep Teishia for me? Me and Cheryl goin' to the Do Drop."
"Then you and Cheryl needs to take Teishia with you," I said. "I want some peace and quiet tonight."
"Aw, Momma! I ain't been out in two days!" she whined. I hate it when Bertie whines.
"I won't be gone long, I promise," she lied. "Besides, Teishia'll be good. She go right to sleep."
I sighed. That was the right word. Sigh . . . I closed my notebook and went to put it away.
"Bertie, the last time you said that, that baby kept me up till two. And you and Cheryl didn't come home till mornin'." I opened the bedroom door. My daughter was standing there, dressed and ready to go. Teishia was sitting in the middle of the floor, playing with a Bic lighter. I ran over to her and snatched it away.
"Bertie, you a fool or what? You got t' watch that child every minute! She mighta set herself-and us-on fire! And put these up!" I clicked the lighter. The flame jumped up an inch.
Bertie rolled her eyes like she thought I was stupid.
"Girl, you roll those eyes like that again, you be pickin' them up off the floor!"
"Momma, she only a baby. She can't work it."
"And you a fool." I stashed the lighter in my robe pocket.
"You gonna keep her or not?" Bertie's hand was on her hip, and she was getting a definite attitude. I woulda got one with her but I had just come off a ten-hour shift at the hospital. I was tired. All I wanted was for this baby to go to sleep so I could relax. I could always jump an attitude with Bertie some other time.
"She better go to sleep," I told Bertie. Teishia stuck one fat finger in her mouth.
Bertie lit out that door so fast, it made your head spin.
She left an empty Doritos bag, four Coke cans, and a full ashtray behind her. Not to mention a stack of magazines and the TV blasting. I clicked off the TV and started to pick up some of the mess. Found one of Teishia's dirty diapers under the pillow on my couch. That really made me mad. I'm gettin' sick and tired of pickin' up after that girl.
The sound of a sonic boom came from Rashawn's room.
"Turn that stuff down!" I shouted. I heard voices. It sounded like someone said "Shhh . . . y'all. It's my momma."
I banged on the door. Somebody turned down the volume-but not enough.
"Rashawn, you got somebody in there with you?"
More voices . . .
Teishia grunted. I looked over at her. She had a funny look on her face. The smell made my nose itch.
Shit . . .
"Rashawn!" I knocked again, this time with my fist. I tried the doorknob, but it was locked.
"Rashawn, who's in there?"
Teishia grunted. I looked over my shoulder. Oh, Lord, it was gonna be a big one.
"Just Tiny and Pete, Momma."
Well, that's just great, I said to myself a few minutes later as I wiped Teishia's stinky behind. Pete was OK, but Tiny? "Tiny" was almost seven feet tall, and had four babies by three girls that I knew of. He was a crackhead most of the time. And a thief. He stole the little Walkman my momma gave me for Christmas. He took money outta Bertie's purse once and even took Rashawn's twenty-two, tho' Rashawn had no business keeping a twenty-two in my house in the first place. Tiny was always grinning and bobbing around, gettin' up in my face with "Good mornin', Miz Louis, good evenin', Miz Louis. You all right? You need somethin'? I'll set you up. Get you straight." Negro was always tryin' to give me somethin'. Shoot. He didn't have nothin' I wanted. Well, 'cept maybe for my Walkman he stole. Other than that, Tiny was a lyin', stealin', dirty junkie, and I did not want him in my house.
But tonight was not the night for that either.
I let Tiny stay a little while. I told Rashawn to turn the music down again. He said "Shit." Then he and Tiny and Pete left.
I washed the baby up and put her to sleep in the fold-up playpen. Took me a bath with Calgon and laughed. What does that commercial say? "Calgon . . . take me away."
I sat on the couch and smoked a cigarette. Watched the baby sleep. Heard sirens screaming down Main Street. Lots of noise outside. It sounded like Mardee was havin' another party across the hall. I blindly watched the figures dancing across the TV screen. Ducked down when I thought I heard a gunshot. I drank a Coke and listened to Mardee's party and to the cars going by.
Then I took out my notebook. It's pretty, covered with fabric. A "paisley" print, the saleslady had told me.
I had the pen in my hand-a real ballpoint. It cost me good money at the flea market. It wasn't cheap or nothin'. I took a deep breath, got ready.
My hand didn't move.
What was I gonna say?
You're supposed to have a juicy story to tell on pages like this-a hot love affair like the ones they talk about on the TV, or a long trip to a far-off place.
I looked at the empty page. Then I looked at my good ink pen. I closed the notebook.
You don't write about a COTA bus life in a paisley-fabric-covered notebook.
And you can't write the story of a ninety-nine-cent life with a three-dollar-fifty-cent Parker pen.
A ninety-nine cent-life goes something like this:
At home they call me "Momma." At work, I am "Nita" or "Hey, you!" But my name is Juanita Louis. And I like to be called "Juanita."
I live in the projects. They call it low-income housing now. But when I came along ("back in the day" as my kids would say) they called 'em projects. My parents worked hard to move us kids outta there, Daddy worked three jobs and Momma worked two. I remember when we finally moved outta there and into a small two-story frame house off Cleveland Avenue. Mom and Dad were so proud. Nowadays they try to make the projects look like someplace you wanna be, glamorize gunshots and crackheads. Now, it's called the 'hood.
1. Juanita is a responsible mother, grandmother, sister and employee, yet her actions are ultimately irresponsible. Do you think her decision to simply 'up and leave' is justified? If you were in her situation could you do the same? Why or why not?
2. Juanita leaves in search of herself. Are her actions selfish or courageous? What separates one from the other?
3. Do you think it was realistic that a black woman from the projects of Ohio would be so readily accepted in a small town like Paper Moon?
4. What if anything do you think Juanita's agoraphobia (fear of open spaces) represented?
5. Millie's tells Juanita, "Your fears can paralyze you. Always, but always do what you're afraid to do. You'll be surprise how far it will take you." Do you find this to be sound advice? How much of a role do you think fear plays in decision making?
6. Juanita has never known love without possession. She's always followed where her men led her. Do you think that this is typical of most relationships?
7. Books are the impetus for Juanita to take charge of her life and turn it around. What role, if any, do you think fiction plays in understanding 'real' life? Have you ever read a book that had a major impact on your life?
Posted July 29, 2013
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Posted October 3, 2012
This was my second time reading this book. I have read all four of her books and love them all. This is a feel good and relax in bed type book. Makes me want to go on my own adventure.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 13, 2012
Posted August 16, 2010
I downloaded this e-book weeks ago to my Nook, but I am so glad that I waited until this past weekend to actually read it. A dark, rainy Sunday afternoon curled up in pillows and quilts was the ideal way to enjoy this short, fun book (167 pages).
Don't choose this book if you're looking for something profound from the best sellers' lists, but this book is definitely above the norm of the mass market paperback market. Regardless of your race, middle age women (and maybe men) can all relate here.
Posted February 7, 2010
Juanita, a mother and grandmother, has worked hard providing for her family, while neglecting to have a life of her own. Everyday she does the same old thing. When Mrs. Berman, a patient at the hospital where Juanita works, passes away. While helping her daughter pack her things, Juanita comes across some books. Instead of throwing the books out, she takes the books home and begins reading them. All of a sudden, Juanita has a new attitude.
Juanita leaves her job, her grown spoiled children, takes the few pennies she had and decided to travel. She winds up in Paper Moon, Montana, a small town with people who seemingly welcome her right in. Jesse Gardiner, the owner of the diner, is the most helpful in Juanita's journey of self discovery.
I picked up "Dancing on the Edge of the Roof" and was able to finish it in one sitting. It's an inspiring read that challenges you to try something different. I highly recommend it!!!!!!
Reviewed by: Carmen
Posted March 8, 2006
I read this book in 6 hours!! Started on the subway home from work and finished in time for bed. I was transported into Juanita's world. It's a great story for those of us needing a push to do something different.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 9, 2008
In Columbus, Ohio forty-two years old African-American Juanita Lewis is disappointed with her two sons and daughter. Rashawn is a drug dealer; Randy is doing time; and Bertie does the clubs ignoring her baby. To flee from her belief that she failed at parenting 101, Juanita escapes into romance novels where she fantasizes of a different life for her and her family, and when she is honest with herself, just her.--- Unable to cope with the latest disenchantment and encouraged by her novels, Juanita quits her nurses aide job and takes a bus to escape from her dismal home life. The name sounds romantic and her bus companion mentioned it, so she gets off in Paper Moon, Montana. At the local diner Juanita defeats owner Jess Gardiner in a cook off by providing a simple menu rather than his upper crust bill of fare for the patrons. Soon everyone wants to eat at the diner. Juanita enjoys rustication even conversing with her landlady¿s cats. Jess begins courting her and they fall in love.--- DANCING ON THE EDGE OF THE ROOF is a fantastic contemporary romance with an insightful family drama that actually comes alive though the perceptions of the heroine. Though the metamorphosis of Juanita from nurturing care-taker to strong ¿I am woman¿ seems impossible yet Sheila Williams makes it believable as if Juanita ¿snapped¿ in a positive way as she realizes that there is got to be more to life than this and decides to find it. The story line is amusing with its serious message to respect yourself while the J duet fuss, fight, and fall in love within this fine second chance at life.--- Harriet KlausnerWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 20, 2003
This is a book I read in three days sharp. The story of Juanita and her journey for self discovery and different scenery is a story any person who feels trap can relate to. Sheila Williams wrote a compelling novel and created a character that is as memorable as any other person I have read in previous books.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 29, 2003
Juanita was a quirky single mother who was tired of her life and decided to run away. She ran away to Paper Moon, Montana. Of all places in the country...world even...to go. We got to see barely literate Juanita develop into an exquisite writer while she managed to fall in love. Her falling in love was just a surprise to her and a lucky surprise to me as well. She has difficulty finding the right words to describe her bland gray surroundings of Ohio, but her descriptions broaden as she adventures to Montana. This book was an excellent read! I couldn't put it down. Juanita reminded me of my mother, grandmothers, aunts, cousins....all of us surreal Black women...justa livin'. I appreciate Sheila weaving a light hearted tale with other interesting supporting characters. The writing was superb! Thank you! I'm recommending this book to my English Professor at Miles College, in Alabama. Thank you again and I can't wait for your next book!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 27, 2011
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Posted September 2, 2010
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