Girls Most Likely: A Novelby Sheila Williams
From the fifth grade to their fifth decade, Vaughn, Reenie, Susan, and Audrey share secrets and dreams–their lives connected like silk threads through rich fabric, pulling but never breaking at life’s unexpected/i>
“We didn’t know then that the dramas we imagined weren’t even warm-ups for what real life held for us.”
From the fifth grade to their fifth decade, Vaughn, Reenie, Susan, and Audrey share secrets and dreams–their lives connected like silk threads through rich fabric, pulling but never breaking at life’s unexpected twists and turns. Meet the girls most likely
TO WRITE THE GREAT AMERICAN NOVEL: Vaughn has a flair for words that makes her the unofficial diplomat of the foursome. She’s great at keeping it together for everybody–but herself.
TO MARRY A PRINCE: Sassy Reenie can break hearts as easily as she can take out a bully without breaking a nail. But her live-for-today attitude leads to a tragic mistake that will haunt the girls for years.
TO BE FAMOUS: From the ashes of a ravaged home life, amid rumors and bad feelings, Susan rises to fame as a glamorous network anchorwoman, proving that success is the best revenge. But forgiveness is another matter.
TO RUN THE WORLD: Audrey is the ultimate overachiever, but this takes a devastating toll on her health, her career, and her family. Perfection is a race where the finish line keeps moving. What will she sacrifice to win?
Girls Most Likely is an emotional, uplifting, often hilarious glimpse into the lives of today’s ever-changing African American women, sustained by love, laughter, and sisterhood.
Don’t miss the reading group guide in the back of the book.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
- Random House Publishing Group
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Read an Excerpt
I thought that I was fearless until the piece of paper that every sane adult over forty dreads arrived in my mailbox on a June afternoon: the invitation to my thirtieth high school class reunion
PURPLE TIGERS, CLASS OF 1971 IT’S REUNION TIME! date: friday, august 25 time: 7:00 p.m. until ??? place: the imperial arms be there or be square rsvp to darla martin-gilmore by august 5 we look forward to seeing YOU!!!!
Damn it! I said to myself, fingering the white envelope trimmed in purple. I wondered if the French Foreign Legion was still in existence. I hadn’t used my high school French in over twenty years but there were refresher courses. Maybe it wasn’t too late to join the Witness Protection Program.
Why, for God’s sake, the Imperial Arms? It had seen better days. Like forty years ago. And the buffet wasn’t that good even then.
You have some choices, my conscience advised. You can kill yourself now or mark the envelope “Addressee Unknown” and drop it into the mailbox . . . or you could go.
Oh grow up, I answered back. What’s wrong with suicide?
I would be fifty in a couple of years so I figured there weren’t many things left in the world that could really scare me. After all, I was on my second marriage. I was not afraid of the dark—I outgrew that when I was four. I will admit that I am the only mom who sits at the bottom of the bleachers at my son’s football games. Heights make me queasy. And yes, cancer and Alzheimer’s worry me. So I eat broccoli and do crossword puzzles to keep the gray cells from getting squishy. But other than that, I thought I was fearless. But there’s nothing like the invitation to your thirtieth high school reunion to put ice cubes in your intestines.
Maybe I could run away from home.
“Hey! What’s up?” My son, Keith, or “Jaws” as we call him because of his feeding habits, joined me in the hallway. He was chomping on an apple, talking with his mouth full, and holding a jar of peanut butter in one hand. Life was normal.
“What’s with the psychedelic envelope?” he asked, with a burst of laughter in his voice. Bits of apple went everywhere.
“High school reunion,” I answered. “And clean up that mess!”
“Ho, ho! How many years is it, Mom? Thirty-five? Forty?”
“Thirty, thank you. Get it right,” I retorted.
“If you don’t watch it, I’ll stop feeding you,” I warned him.
“Purple Tigers? Oh, this ought to be good. You old-school fogies limping around the dance floor to Al Green . . .”
“No, the Temptations, Sly and the Family Stone, Earth, Wind and Fire,” I countered. I was remembering the wonderful music. “And there isn’t anything ‘old school’ about it. It’s just real music where people actually play the instruments. You know, musical instruments? Saxophones, trumpets, guitars?”
Keith shook his head and took another monstrous bite.
“Yeah, yeah, whatever. You’re going, right?” He patted me on the top of my head.
One of the lovely things about having a nearly grown son is that when he gets to be taller than you are, he treats you like an armrest.
“Go away, shoo,” I said, pushing his two-hundred-pound frame toward the kitchen where it belonged. “Don’t forget we have to talk about that football camp this evening. Oh, and that girl called again.” I call her “that girl” because she has one of those amazing names that I can’t pronounce. “La” on the front end and an “ishelle” on the back end. As my great-grandmother would say, “Mercy!”
“OK, but you should go, Ma. You don’t look too bad for an old lady. A little short but . . .”
I love compliments.
“Beat it before I throw something at you,” I yelled after him.
I looked at the invitation again.
Had it really been thirty years? It seemed like only yesterday that I had nearly been suspended for . . . Now I was sounding like an old-school fogy. Of course, it had been thirty years. I’d been to college, married, had two babies, divorced, married again, had one more baby; worked at three companies, one university, and one junior college; done innumerable loads of laundry, been a room mother three hundred times, cheered soccer, football, and volleyball games; and made more chili and Rice Krispies treats than I care to think about. Not to mention the gray hair that I religiously color every four weeks and the extra ten pounds I was carrying around—OK, fifteen pounds.
Oh, yes, and those babies grew up. Beca was in San Francisco preparing to make me a grandmother. Yikes! Candace had just finished her master’s degree and was spending the summer in Italy. Keith was headed toward his senior year in high school.
And there were the other things.
Thirty years ago my parents still lived on Greenway Avenue in a little beige stucco house. Our German shepherd, Ranger, held court in the backyard and Mrs. Adams poked her nose over the fence complaining about his barking. My oldest sister, Pat, would have been in the bathroom in front of the mirror combing her hair this way and that. My youngest sister, Jean, would have been in the window seat, coloring. Grandma Jane lived on the next block; the Methodist minister lived around the corner.
Time didn’t march on, it flew at light speed. Dad was gone now, and Mother sold the little house and lived in a condo on the other side of town. Pat and her family live in Denver and Jean is stationed in Washington, D.C. My baby sister is a major in the U.S. Army. Grandma’s gone, the reverend is gone, and Ranger was the third of several dogs by the same name, all of which were buried with pomp and circumstance and heartfelt tears in the backyard beneath the old maple tree.
Thank God for the memories. My high school yearbooks rest on top of the bookshelf in the family room. Keith leafs through them and makes fun of the way we dressed “back in the olden days,” especially our afros. Of course, everything comes back, and now that bell-bottoms are on the runways in New York, my long-haired son looks at my high school picture with more respect. We were trend- setters.
I pick up the book from 1971, which is my favorite year. I flip through it whenever I want to feel good. It’s like a worn house slipper, completely broken in. It is like meat loaf and mashed pota- toes made with whole milk and butter. And I always open it to the same page. There we are. It’s the picture of the National Honor Society and we’re standing in the front row: me, Audrey, Reenie, and Su—best friends since elementary and junior high school. Inseparable. We are wearing plaid jumpers with pleated skirts, V-neck sweaters, and knee socks. Cheerleader skirts. Afros and hooped earrings. Dashikis. And smiles. Lots and lots of smiles, real ones. Life was full of possibilities then.
On the day we graduated we promised to stay in touch, but we scattered. Our times together grew further apart but were no less cherished. And I think all of us would agree that the times we spent together growing up were some of the best times of our lives. Those were the days when we weren’t afraid to experiment or make mistakes. Those were the days before our lives would need revision, before our souls would need restoration. Those were the days before we learned that we wouldn’t live forever, the days before regrets. And, in many ways, those were the last days that we had friendships so close that our skins inhaled the fibers of the mohair sweaters we borrowed from one another.
Irene, Audrey, and Susan were the girls I grew up with. The girls who turned the double-Dutch ropes when I was nine, who invited me to their slumber parties and told me their secrets, some of which I’ve kept to this day. In high school, they got their own page in the yearbook because they were the “girls most likely”: to succeed, to marry a millionaire, to be rich and famous, and to negotiate world peace. They were the girls most likely to do everything wonderful. I was on the fringes of their lives, basking in the reflection of their friendship and taking advantage of the benefits that came with being seen with them.
We were born in the early fifties. Our mothers named us after their favorite movie stars: Susan Hayward, Irene Dunne, and Audrey Hepburn. And like the screen queens, we were told to behave ourselves and do what was expected of us: white gloves and a hat to church on Sunday; Fisk, Spelman, or Howard; a “good” job teaching school or working for the government (thirty years in and a pension out), or, God willing, marry a doctor and not have to work at all. Of course, we were colored then and things were changing in the world.
Neither our mothers, or Mesdames Hayward, Dunne, or Hepburn, ever dreamed that when we grew up not only would we be black (we’re African American now, but that is another book) but we would not teach or go to Fisk or work for the state or marry doctors. Instead, we wore afros, pitched out our bras (I have since had to retrieve mine for the safety of myself and others), wore blue jeans with holes in the knees, took the pill, and raised our fists high in the symbol of Black Power. We did inhale and we lived lives that neither our parents nor society ever planned. Our mothers and fathers, who had tried so hard to make decent Negro women out of us, were horrified at first. But I think Susan, Irene, and Audrey might not have minded as much. Now, we are Su, Reenie, and Audrey (Audrey is not the kind of girl who takes to nicknames). My name is Vaughn and I’m the fourth member of the group. My name doesn’t come from a screen queen. My mother, conveniently, has amnesia on the subject. The expectations, however, were just the same.
I, however, wasn’t voted most likely to do anything. I was raised to be a “good girl.” And I was. Until I learned that good girls finish behind good guys—dead last. So I rebelled. Unlike my friends, I ended up being the girl most likely to be suspended, arrested on a picket line, or having her editorial censored.
This is a great picture. Reenie is darling, her long black hair pulled into a ponytail that falls around her shoulders. She’s petite but has an hourglass figure, the only one of us who can look sexy in a plaid jumper and tights. Even in the black-and-white photograph, her eyes sparkle and you can see dimples in her pale cheeks.
Audrey is tall, thin, and elegant, just like her namesake. This photo was taken on game day so she’s wearing her cheerleading uniform: dark purple sweater with the tiger on front; short, purple skirt, pleated; bobby socks and snow-white sneakers. These are the old days, before Nike. Her dark hair curls gently around her face in a soft afro, her almond-shaped eyes and smooth cheekbones give her face an exotic look. We called her Cat Woman sometimes. She was the only girl we knew who had hazel eyes, and if she was angry at you, they glowed.
Su is also tall but sturdy-looking, not willowy like Audrey. Despite her love of Kathleen Cleaver and Angela Davis, Su didn’t give up her neatly pressed hair for anything. It falls to her shoulders in a perfectly arranged pageboy, expertly curled and sprayed by her hairdresser aunt. She’s not cute like Reenie or elegant like Audrey. Su is striking. Her brows are naturally arched, her nose strong and wide, her smile engaging. Su was a majorette, so she’s wearing the short-skirted cream dress with the purple Tiger emblem on front and white boots with tassels. On anyone else, that getup would be tacky. On Su, it looks like Givenchy couture.
And then there is me.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
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Vaughn, Rennie, Su and Audrey are four women that were referenced as, The Girls Most Likely, a well-known group of friends that love, support and work together in order to function with everyday living. After making a connection in grammar school, the foursome became the best of friends. They were so close that they each knew the other like the backs of their hands.
Can you believe that it's been thirty years since they graduated high school?
Vaughn Jones is the bookworm that lacked coordination as well as popularity. However her dreams of someday being a writer were evident.
Reenie Keller comes highly regarded by both the boys as well as the girls. She has the potential to marry anyone including Prince Charming himself.
Su Penn has a soft tone of voice. Tackled with her looks and popularity, she is definitely shooting for the stars.
Audrey Taylor is the sharp dresser and overachiever. There was no room for error; she always had to be the best at whatever it was she did. There wasn't anything that she couldn't attain.
Uniquely enough, author Sheila Williams allows the four characters to enlighten the readers with their own perspective of the foursome. From the very beginning, Vaughn introduces us to the friendship. Reenie details the heart wrenching betrayal. Su guides you into the adult years. Then Audrey finalizes that time.
GIRLS MOST LIKELY is assembled with a remarkable sisterhood, friendship, love, historical events and forgiveness. It does start out a tad slow for my pace.
Reviewed by: Carmen
Vaughn, Rennie, Su and Audrey are four women that were referenced as, The Girls Most Likely, a well-known group of friends that love, support and work together in order to function with everyday living. After making a connection in grammar school, the foursome became the best of friends. They were so close that they each knew the other like the backs of their hands. Can you believe that it¿s been thirty years since they graduated high school? Vaughn Jones is the bookworm that lacked coordination as well as popularity. However her dreams of someday being a writer were evident. Reenie Keller comes highly regarded by both the boys as well as the girls. She has the potential to marry anyone including Prince Charming himself. Su Penn has a soft tone of voice. Tackled with her looks and popularity, she is definitely shooting for the stars. Audrey Taylor is the sharp dresser and overachiever. There was no room for error she always had to be the best at whatever it was she did. There wasn¿t anything that she couldn¿t attain. Uniquely enough, author Sheila Williams allows the four characters to enlighten the readers with their own perspective of the foursome. From the very beginning, Vaughn introduces us to the friendship. Reenie details the heart wrenching betrayal. Su guides you into the adult years. Then Audrey finalizes that time. GIRLS MOST LIKELY is assembled with a remarkable sisterhood, friendship, love, historical events and forgiveness. It does start out a tad slow for my pace.
The invitation to attend the thirtieth anniversary of their high school graduating class has four African-American women looking back on their lives as they close in on fifty. In the fifth grade in Ohio, the in-crowd Reenie Keller rescues bookworm Vaughn Jones from a beating by a bully. Reenie introduces Vaughn to her pal Su Penn. The trio becomes the Three Musketeers that changes into the four amigas in junior high when Audrey Taylor joins the group.----------------- Over the next two and a half decades the quartet remains close loyal friends helping one another with life. They are there for one another when deaths strike and male troubles lead to broken dreams and marriages. They are there for one another as their offspring begin to grow up and hint at turning them into grandmothers. Now Vaughn is mentally falling apart as her troubles seem insurmountable Reenie feels guilty over a secret she maintains that if revealed will destroy their camaraderie, but not revealing it will destroy her Susan still scorns after all these years her mother for deserting her and Audrey remains true to her martinet father¿s demand for perfection. Each is breaking down, but as a group they remain strong and supportive now they need each other more than ever before.--------------------- This is a terrific look at four sisters whose friendships keep each afloat as life has not lived up to the dreams they had when they first met. The story line rotates between the prime players so that the audience gets inside the heads of these realistic women struggling at forty-eight years old with family issues and middle age problems including aging. Sheila Williams provides a strong look at middle age women with this deep tale (see also DANCING ON THE EDGE OF THE ROOF).--------- Harriet Klausner
Vaughn, Reenie, Susan, and Audrey are life-long friends who are more like sisters than friends. A friendship started in the 5th grade that has lasted over 5 decades. Despite the different directions that life has taken them, they find an opportunity to reconnect at their high school reunion. Vaughn is the bookworm. She is the glue that holds everyone together. Longing to be a successful writer one day, she is the one everyone depends on to be levelheaded in a crisis. But when life throws a curve-ball at Vaughn, will she be able to hold it together? Reenie is the girl that every boy wants and every girl wants to be like. She is keeping a secret that will not only forever change her life but create a betrayal that will cause a rift between the girls. Susan is the determined one. She is determined to be better than the ones who laughed or talked behind her back. She will rise to fame but will she ever be able to forgive her alcoholic mother who abandoned her? Last but least is Audrey. Audrey is the perfectionist. The one who is determined to succeed no matter who (her family) or what (her health) it affects. But when the price of success becomes too much to pay, Audrey will be forced to determine what's more important: her career or her sanity? Girls Most Likely is a heartwarming, touching, yet humorous story about the bonds of friendship and sisterhood. Ms. Williams has written characters that are so realistic, they could be your friend, sister, or maybe even you. An entertaining story that will make you laugh and cry as you join Vaughn, Reenie, Susan, and Audrey on their journey of self-discovery and womanhood. It is the essential book club read. Reviewed by Shay C of PeoplewholoveGoodBooks.