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Playing My Mother's Blues

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Overview

Dani Carter was seven years old — her sister, Rose, seventeen — when their beautiful, impetuous mother, Maria, walked out of their lives, abandoning her husband and family for a love affair. Over the decades that followed, Dani has married a successful man and given birth to a wonderful son. But love has long been missing from her marriage, propelling her into the arms of another and inspiring troubling thoughts of escape. The sins of the mother, Dani fears, have been visited ...

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Overview

Dani Carter was seven years old — her sister, Rose, seventeen — when their beautiful, impetuous mother, Maria, walked out of their lives, abandoning her husband and family for a love affair. Over the decades that followed, Dani has married a successful man and given birth to a wonderful son. But love has long been missing from her marriage, propelling her into the arms of another and inspiring troubling thoughts of escape. The sins of the mother, Dani fears, have been visited upon the daughter.

Now that she finds herself in a similar heartbreaking situation, Dani can't help but wonder who Maria really was. It's a puzzle that may soon be completed, after a lifetime of searching for missing pieces. Maria, calling herself Mariah, is about to reenter her daughters' worlds, bearing secrets and bitter truths . . . and, perhaps, long-awaited answers to what could possibly drive a mother to sacrifice what was dearest to her heart.

Playing My Mother's Blues

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Editorial Reviews

Booklist
“A heartwarming tale.”
Black Issues Book Review
“A richly told narrative of a sister who discovers that ripeness is all.”
Washington Post Book World
“[Tamara Hayle] has a way with a wisecrack that is postively lethal.”
Emerge
“an absorbing family saga.”
Denver Post on Tamara Hayle
“A wonderfully believable and independent sleuth who combines intellect and intuition, sexiness and self-control.”
Houston Chronicle on Tamara Hayle
“An engangin heroine—-smart, sexy, tough but tender.”
Boston Herald on Ain't Nobody's Business If I Do
“Outstanding. . . . A warm, witty comedy of midlife manners.”
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-Wesley is in high form in this contemporary story about mother-daughter relationships in an African-American family. When she was in her 30s, Mariah had an affair that led to her leaving her husband and two daughters. Several months later, she shot her lover and spent time in prison for his murder. Now Rose and Dani are grown, and she has just read of her ex-husband's death. Desperate to make peace with her children after all these years, she makes plans to attend the funeral. Meanwhile, her daughters have spent their lives trying to come to terms with their mother's desertion. The choices that they have made in their relationships reflect both the influence of their Aunt Lucille, who raised them, and the lingering memories of Mariah. When the three women meet again, long-buried issues are brought to the surface and change each of their lives in ways they could not have anticipated. Told from the perspectives of Mariah, Rose, Dani, and Lucille, the story is rich and compelling, and much more complex than it appears on the surface. Interwoven into the tale are themes of racial relationships and the drug culture of the '60s and '70s. The characters are totally believable in their various combinations of grace and flaws. Readers will identify with the struggles of these women to define themselves, rather than letting their circumstances define them.-Kim Dare, Fairfax County Public Library System, VA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Houston Chronicle
“An engangin heroine---smart, sexy, tough but tender.”
Denver Post
“A wonderfully believable and independent sleuth who combines intellect and intuition, sexiness and self-control.”
Boston Herald
“Outstanding. . . . A warm, witty comedy of midlife manners.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060890056
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 6/13/2006
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 822,254
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Valerie Wilson Wesley is the author of the novels Always True to You in My Fashion and Ain't Nobody's Business If I Do, winner of the 2000 Best Fiction Award of the Black Caucus of the American Library Association, as well as the nationally bestselling Tamara Hayle mystery series. A contributing editor at Essence magazine, her fiction and nonfiction have appeared in Ms. and the New York Times. She lives in New Jersey.

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First Chapter

Playing My Mother's Blues

Chapter One

I talk to ghosts these days; they are my only company. We speak at odd and sundry moments -- when the morning sun peeks into my bedroom, while I'm sitting on the bus to work, as I sip one of the two mixed drinks I allow myself before dinner. Events that occurred decades ago haunt me. My life is filled with phantoms.

The most persistent, of course, is the man whose life I took. Mine was a crime of rage and passion. He shows up at night before I fall asleep. Even after all these years, I can feel him enter my bed, touch my foot with his, pull me toward him against my will.

My daughters, Dani and Rose, who are both still alive and always a pleasure to see, arrive with first light. I see them as I saw them last, Dani as a little girl, Rose near womanhood. I talk to Dani as if she were still my baby, trying on my crazy earrings, dancing in my shoes, spraying herself with my cologne. Rose looks as she did on the night that changed us both, but I try to forget that image and replace it with one of her laughing as she used to when she would tease or scold me.

My ex-husband, Hilton Dells, appears when I least expect him. He'll show up suddenly, some small incident calling him up. Like today on my job, when Irish, the cashier who works the station next to me, was carrying on about this wedding she saw on TV.

"Did you see it?" she asked, and the girls at the other stations all began talking at once, giving lengthy descriptions of the dress the bride wore, the flowers in her bouquet, the engagement ring on her finger. That was when I thought of Hilton Dells and my own wedding,which none of the chattering women could have imagined.

My wedding dress was made in Paris. His choice, not mine; I was too foolish to be insulted by his presumption. I wore his mother's diamond ring. He once told me it was the only thing of value she had ever owned. I should have kept it; it would be of value to me right about now. I left it on my pillow the night I left them. I gave back everything he'd given me -- dresses, jewelry, furs, everything except the two things I valued most, which he snatched away.

I've never liked weddings.

"Well, did you see it?" Irish was impatient for my answer. Her real name is Bernadette but we call her Irish, because even though she's been here fifteen years, she still has an Irish accent that gives a charming lilt to everything she says."Did you see it when he gave her that last kiss? So what did you think?"

"Pretty cool," I said.

"Pretty cool! Maria, is that all you can say?"

I'm known here as Maria, the name my mother gave me. I was a number at Somerset -- 1054836.When I got out, I realized "Mariah," the name I once called myself, belonged to the past; Mariah died with Durrell Alexander.

I chuckled at Irish's excitement about the TV wedding, which brought another question.

"Maria, where is your mind?" Irish has reddish-brown hair that she tucks under a cap, and eyes so green they look fake. She's pretty but carries too much weight for someone her age.

It was going on eleven, and the Friday-morning shoppers had come and gone; the ones who shop at lunchtime hadn't yet arrived.

"Maria?"

"Yeah, it was good, wasn't it?" I said, my mind returning from another of its journeys. Irish is thirty and married, with two kids and a disabled husband whom she adores. She goes to school at night to "better" herself. I liked her the moment I laid eyes on her because she's the same age my Dani is now.

But she's not Dani. She's "Irish," with curls that slip out of her cap, an angelic grin, and a bigoted husband who hates black people. She probably assumes I'm Hispanic because of my coloring and my name; most of the women at Somerset did even though I constantly told them what I was. By the time I left, I spoke Spanish with the best of them; it was easier that way.

"Maria, have you ever been married?"

"Yeah. Long time ago." I should have lied; I usually do. But it's hard to lie to a woman who reminds you so much of your daughter.

"Divorced?"

"Yep."

"I wish my wedding had been like that one on TV, with a long dress and a lacy veil and a big diamond ring I could wear instead of this old thing." She held out her hands. I noticed that she'd bitten her nails to the quick the way I used to.

"What was your wedding like, Maria?"

"Justice of the peace. Fast and easy. The ceremony, not the marriage. That lasted longer than it should have." That is the most I've told anyone about the life I led before I moved back here and began working in the store.

"Wanna get some lunch? Grab something at Dean's? They got specials on Friday."

"Not today, honey. I brought my own. Next week? I'll treat."

"Really?" Her eyes lit up.

Sure. That's me. Big-time spender, Maria.

Irish gave me a sunny grin, and I realized how fond I've become of her.

But not too fond. I keep to myself as much as I can. I don't like to explain to people who I was before and where I spent the last twenty years of my life. I treasure my solitude. I'm addicted to silence and privacy; I wallow in it. A sandwich eaten alone in some quiet clean place is a pleasure I never deny myself ...

Playing My Mother's Blues. Copyright © by Valerie Wesley. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 3 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 13, 2006

    FAMILY HISTORY RELIVED

    I DISAGREE WITH SOME OF THE OTHERS READERS ABOUT THIS STORY. I FELT THE STORY WAS VERY INTERESTING, IT WAS NOT BORING TO ME. IT SHOWS HOW HISTORY HAS A WAY OF REPEATING ITSELF SOMETIMES IN FAMILIES. IT DEALT WITH STRUGGLE, AND SO CALL LOVE. IT ALSO DEALS WITH REGRETS AND BROKEN PROMISES. THE STORY WAS VERY POWERFUL, AND I WAS ABLE TO WALK AWAY WITH ALOT TO THINK ABOUT, REGARDING MY FAMILY. I FEEL THAT THE STORY ENDED IN A WAY WHERE THERE COULD BE A BOOK II. I SAY IT IS WORTH A READ.

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

    Posted June 23, 2006

    Fans will enjoy this family drama

    Impetuous Maria left her spouse Hilton Dells for Durell Alexander. However, when she walked out on Hilton and became Mariah, she also abandoned her daughters seven year old Dani Carter and seventeen year old Rose. However, several months after she deserted her family for a love affair, the hotheaded Mariah killed her lover. She spent time in jail for the homicide while Hilton¿s sister Lucille raised her nieces especially the ¿baby¿.---------------- Maria reads an obit that Hilton just died. Whereas Dani overcame the betrayal, but remains curious about the woman she remembers filled with élan Rose has always acted as if their mom died years ago. Now the death of Hilton has brought to the surface the one guilt that Maria has tried to bury, abandoning her children. She wants to reconcile with them. Dani needs to understand her mom as she finds herself following her mother¿s path being marred with children, but having an affair. Rose, raging with rancor, wants nothing to do with the woman whose leaving devastated her. Lucille wants her former sister-in-law to stay away from her nieces. These four women meet ostensibly to bury Hilton but to exhume the past.------------------------ The viewpoint constantly switches mostly between Mariah, Rose, and Dani, and to a much lesser degree Lucille so that the audience sees the same incident from dissimilar perspectives. For instance what seems like a molehill to Maria is Mt. Everest to Rose as each looks back to the late 1960s early 1970s differently. The fine character study enables the audience to understand how a pivotal event over two decades ago still fully impacts the players. Though at times the introspection can slow down the plot, fans will enjoy this family drama starring believable protagonists struggling to understand one another.------------------- Harriet Klausner

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 22, 2005

    A small book but a very slow read

    I think the story could have been told, even ehanced upon, without being so 'wordy'. Also, 'Dee' from 'What's happening!' was not 'Rerun's' sister, she was 'Roger's' sister.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 13, 2005

    It was alright

    Good storyline but not well written. It was kinda slow and boring. The ending left you hanging.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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