From the Publisher
“A COMPELLING EMOTIONAL PORTRAIT . . . Samuel’s writing is a gift to readers, her voice a demand for us to feel everything in our lives and to meet it with courage . . . a truly luminous novel.”
–Contra Costa Times
“Barbara Samuel’s writing is, quite simply, splendid. . . . These women are as familiar as your next-door neighbor and as exotic as the goddesses who archetype their lives. Samuel soars with genius in the humanity of her storytelling.”
“Warmhearted . . . [Samuel’s] characters are warmly drawn and sympathetic, their problems real and believable.”
Unhappily separated from her husband at the start of this warmhearted but uneven novel by Samuel (A Piece of Heaven, etc.), 46-year-old Trudy tries to put her life back together with the help of her friends on Kitchen Avenue in Pueblo, Colo. Trudy wants to forget Rick, who cheated on her for months before she found a series of incriminating e-mails, but she still loves him desperately and can't give up hope that they might get back together. With plenty of free time on her hands-her three children are mostly grown and her job as a university secretary is undemanding-she finds herself wondering whether it's too late to travel to Spain and study poetry, things she planned to do before she married Rick and got pregnant. Meanwhile, Roberta, the elderly black woman next door, is mourning the loss of her husband, Edgar; Jade, Roberta's gorgeous social worker granddaughter, is trying to forget her jailbird ex-husband by training to be a boxer; and 24-year-old Shannelle, a mother of two, is struggling to be a writer despite the opposition of her blue-collar husband. All four women look out for one another, exchanging gossip, massages, lemon cake and advice. The arrival of a new neighbor, sultry Spanish photographer Angel, gives Trudy fresh confidence and encourages her to take control of her fate. The abrupt cuts from one woman's story to the next make for choppy reading, and Samuel relies rather heavily on New Age homilies, but her characters are warmly drawn and sympathetic, their problems real and believable. (Feb.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Grab bag of poetry, goddess lore, e-mails-and oh, yeah, a story. Trudy Marino is 46, coping with loneliness and self-doubt when her husband Rick leaves her for a younger woman. Good thing Trudy has a rainbow assortment of politically correct, culturally inclusive friends of all ages and social classes to see her through! In alternating POVs, meet Jade, a tough-talking, kick-boxing African-American social worker with a heart of gold; her grandmother Roberta, whose husband of 62 years has just died; Shanelle, a white-trash girl and proud of it, married to a non-macho Latino who supports her dreams of making it as a writer; and Angel, the tawny, brawny photographer from Spain who just moved in next door to Trudy. When not sipping Sleepytime tea and munching bowls of Nutrigrain cereal and bathing in organic lavender oil by candlelight and listening to Spanish guitar music and reading the poetry of Garc'a Lorca, Trudy thinks it all over. Is she ready to explore her middle-aged, wild-woman sensuality at last, even though she pines for Rick and his graying goatee? Gee, Angel is so young. Why does he want to photograph her? Maybe she'd better ask a goddess: she changes deities once a month, creating new household altars for the likes of Kali, the great destroyer; Yemaya, the African goddess of the rivers and oceans; Hecate, the gray crone, etc. Maybe they know why this handsome Angel was, ahem, sent to her. But he speaks for himself in a way that captivates our bashful heroine: "I am here in this neighborhood because when I came looking for a house to rent, I saw a very beautiful woman standing in that beautiful light, and I wanted to take her picture very, very much. So I must seem young andfoolish to you, but I am sincere." Guess what happens next. Well-meaning but weak and often silly.
Read an Excerpt
Sunday, October 25, 20
My hands are shaky as the leaves on the trees today. Hope you can read this all right. I hate seeing that I’ve got old lady handwriting. But then, it stands to reason, doesn’t it? How’d we get so old?
It’s Sunday and I ain’t been to church. Been sitting here all morning by my Edgar, trying to get enough courage up to let him go. I sent everybody away—all the parishioners who been bringing greens and pots of stew and washing up my dishes while I sit with him. Sent even the children away. They can all come back later, when I’ve gone and done what I need to do.
Sister, I been here all morning and can’t open up my mouth to say it. Go on, Edgar. I’ll be all right. He’s just waiting for that, because when he fell into this coma, I grabbed his old hand and begged him not to leave me.
And he’s such a good man, he’s holding on. There, now I’m crying again.
I been holding his hand for sixty-two years. This morning, I was holding it and remembering that morning he first came to our back door, asking for a drink of water. Remember? He’d been down on his luck, but he was so proud. He looked so good in the sunshine with his pretty head and that strong old nose. My heart flipped clean over and I wasn’t but fifteen. I’ve had no use for any other man since that day.
I been remembering all of it this morning. Wondering how it would of been if we’d stayed back there in Mississippi with all y’all. Wondering what it was he saw in Italy that made him never talk about it his whole life long. Wondering if we’d of had as good a life if we hadn’t come west to Pueblo, where we’ve been so peaceful. Home of the Heroes. Did you know they call it that nowdays? Fitting. Edgar put away all his medals, but he was sure proud when the Medal of Honor winners all came here. He put on his best suit that morning, and went down to listen to them, all four old men like him. I went along with him, of course, but I didn’t hear what he did. I asked him one time if it was so bad as all that, and he just bowed his head and said, Worse.
So I just let it be.
And he’s not a perfect man, not by any means. He was too stern with the children, fussy about things as he got old, wanting every little thing his way. We’ve had our share of dark times, too, times when I wanted to take a meat cleaver to his stubborn old head. Once or twice, he hurt my heart, but he never did it on purpose.
It’s not those times I’m thinking of now, though. I’m remembering how hard we could laugh, so much that Edgar would get to wheezing. I’m thinking about waking up morning after morning after morning with him lying beside me. Listening to him, whistling as he fiddled with a television dead but for the magic he gave it with his clever mind.
Lord, give me strength. I have got to let him go. He’s withering away right in front of my eyes. But I’m telling you the truth, sister, I’m going, too. I asked the Lord to take me. Y’all know I love you, but you, sister, know my life won’t be nothing without him.