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From critically-acclaimed author, Donna Hill comes a riveting novel that is both emotionally complex and simply beautiful in its portrayal of three generations of women and the dark secret that links them all. . .

After the sudden and tragic death of her parents, Cora Harvey has nothing left except her incredible voice and her dream to share it with the world. But her dream will never come true in Rudell, Mississippi, especially if she marries the man she adores, Dr. David ...

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Rhythms: A Novel

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From critically-acclaimed author, Donna Hill comes a riveting novel that is both emotionally complex and simply beautiful in its portrayal of three generations of women and the dark secret that links them all. . .

After the sudden and tragic death of her parents, Cora Harvey has nothing left except her incredible voice and her dream to share it with the world. But her dream will never come true in Rudell, Mississippi, especially if she marries the man she adores, Dr. David Mackey. When she sets out for Chicago, everyone in the small town, including David believes that the next time they see Cora her name will be in lights. But it's not long before Cora finds herself back in Rudell and back into David's arms harboring a secret she dare not reveal, not even to her husband-to-be. . .

In the small town of Rudell, Cora's daughter, Emma, never felt as if she fit in. She stands out too much, looks too different, and everyone in the small community makes it clear that this black girl in a white woman's body doesn't belong. Emma soon discovers her one-way ticket out of Rudell, away from the people who belittled her and onto the life that she deserves. And unlike her mother, she has no intention of ever looking back. When Emma finds the perfect man and happiness at last, her family's past threatens to destroy it all. But she is determined to do whatever it takes to ensure that nothing ruins the beautiful life she has created for herself.

The dream that began with Cora comes full circle with her beloved granddaughter Parris whose melodic voice fills the dimly lit nightclubs of New York City. Yet, when tragedy strikes, opening a door to the past, Parris discovers hidden truths that have ripped the family apart—-but which may ultimately bind them together at last.

From the dusty roads of the Delta to the pulsing metropolis of New York City, Rhythms is an encompassing, unforgettable tale.

Author Biography: Donna Hill has fifteen published novels to her credit and has been featured in Essence, the Daily News, USA Today, Today's Black Woman, and Black Enterprise among many others. She has appeared on numerous radio and television station across the country and her work has appeared on several bestseller lists. She works full time as a Public Relations Associate for the Queens Borough Public Library system, and organizes author-centered events and workshops through her promotions and management company ImageNOIR.org. Donna lives with her family in Brooklyn, NY.

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Editorial Reviews

Hill. . .offers a moving saga of three generations of Black women. . .a richly detailed saga.
Essence magazine
Hill...offers a moving saga of three generations of Black women...a richly detailed saga.
Romantic Times
An Outstanding Read! are the only words to describe Donna hill's foray into mainstream fiction with Rhythms. . .The characters are well developed and their inner turmoil plays beautifully, keeping in rhythms with this spellbinding story.
Black Issues Book Review
Rhythms holds you spellbound with its emotion-packed plot and vivid settings. The characters are bold, refreshing, human; you'll love them, hate them, but will never forget them. This winning combination makes Hill's latest novel an irresistible, one-sitting read.
Romantic Times Magazine
Racism, rape, and crossing the color line are only a handful of topics dealt with in Hill's glorious new novel. The characters are well developed and their inner turmoil plays beautifully, keeping in rhythm with the spellbinding story.
Robert Fleming
Donna Hill has created a glorious historical saga exploring the complex theme of love, race, identity and choice with intelligence, insight and imagination. . . grand in scope. . .[an] impassioned book to be savored, considered and read, again and again.
Margaret Johnson-Hodge
. . .leaves you breathless. . .a story that snatches you up in it's midst, Rythms is an incredible journey well worth the taking, an extraordinary tale woven with skill and to-the-bone authenticity.
Emma J. Wisdom
Readers are in for [an]. . .emotional rollercoaster ride. . .Hill. . .has stretched her wings and cast her net wide to satsify her many fans with a smoothly written and entertaining read. . .Donna Hill's Rhythms will garner broad audience appeal with this engrossing, captivating, and compelling read. —Times Courier
Francis Ray
Richly imagined and skillfully written, RHYTHMS is a powerful novel of three women linked by blood, heartache, and ultimately triumph as they struggle to live with the hard choices they've had to make to survive.
Timm McCann
The words are lyrical and sweet and the story so succinctly written it dares you to look away. . .[RHYTHMS] applauds the human sprit and the essence that is the best of us. . .I advise you to call in late tomorrow because your night will be filled with RHYTHMS.
Sandra Kitt
Donna Hill has crafted a warm hearted and inspiring family saga about strength, pride and forgiveness. . .proof of the indomitable spirit of black men and women.
Publishers Weekly
Veteran romance writer Hill's first book for a major house (after If I Could, etc.) is a rambling, uneven saga of three generations of African-American women burdened by secrets and lies. One-dimensional characters, a leaden writing style and shopworn plot devices trivialize the tale. Opening in the late 1920s and set in rural Mississippi in "the colored section of Rudell," the story features pretty 17-year-old Cora Harvey, a preacher's daughter and talented member of the church choir. When Cora heads for Chicago with singing aspirations she leaves behind her suitor, David Mackey, the only African-American doctor in town. A devastating encounter with a white employer spoils Cora's dream. She returns to Mississippi and marries David, without revealing the appalling truth about her flight from Chicago. Predictably, the couple's happiness is all too brief: the birth of Emma, a daughter with unquestionably white features, leaves David feeling betrayed and destroys the marriage. Hill sacrifices what might have been a fascinating exploration of Cora's struggles to bring up a mixed-race daughter in a tightly knit black community in favor of fast-forwarding 18 years. That's when a willful Emma plots her escape to New York City, where she passes for white and soon meets her wealthy young husband-to-be. Years race by again and Emma's estranged daughter, Parris, is seeking romance, a musical career in New York and the truth about her heritage. Careful editing would have improved much of the flabby prose ("The September sun hung like a blazing orange umbrella"), but it's the thinly drawn characters that sap the novel's vitality, and only Hill's fans will have stamina for the long haul. (Aug.)Forecast: This title should attract plenty of attention, since Hill has built a considerable grassroots following and three of her novels have been adapted for television. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A Mississippi preacher's daughter heads north-and comes home humbled. In 1927, Cora Harvey dreams of becoming a singer. The gospel hymns she belts out in her father's congregation have given her voice a soul-stirring fervor-at a time when plenty of coloreds are making names for themselves away from Jim Crow laws. But Cora's sweetheart, David Mackey, a handsome doctor, wants her to marry him and stay in Rudell. Meanwhile, there are signs of change: a NAACP representative is coming to town, and Cora's parents are his official hosts. But when they die in a suspicious fire, Cora is devastated. Reluctantly, David lets her go to Chicago to fulfill the dream she set aside when he began to court her. Cora's overwhelmed by the big city, but she's soon befriended by good-time girl Margaret, who gets her work bussing tables and, later, cleaning houses. Then, raped by a white employer, William Rutherford, Cora heads home to David's welcoming arms, never telling him what happened. When her child is born-a girl-it's only too clear that the father is white. David hightails it two days later. Emma grows up ashamed of her mother for being nothing but cleaning woman, and eventually learns about her real father and goes north to find him. Her pale complexion and brilliant green eyes allow her to pass for white-and she soon has a handsome admirer, Michael Travanti, an Italian-American soldier. They marry shortly after she confronts Rutherford and Michael heads off to war. Not telling him, she gives birth to a daughter, then gives the infant to her mother to raise because the baby's skin is so dark. Named Parris, the girl grows up knowing none of this, though she's the one who at long last will reuniteand heal the family. Heartfelt vividness breathes life into a soap-ish plot from Hill (Shipwreck Season, 1998, etc.).
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312300692
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 9/14/2002
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.75 (d)

Meet the Author

Donna Hill has fifteen published novels to her credit and has been featured in Essence, The Daily News, USA Today, Today's Black Woman, and Black Enterprise among many others. She has appeared on numerous radio and television station across the country and her work has appeared on several bestseller lists. She works full time as a Public Relations Associate for the Queens Borough Public Library system, and organizes author-centered events and workshops through her promotions and management company ImageNOIR.org. Donna lives with her family in Brooklyn, NY.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Down in the Delta, somewhere just beyond Alligator, Mississippi, rests thecolored section of Rudell, a community of less than five hundred, dividedunequally by race, wealth, and religion by the Left Hand River. It wasnamed such because from the top of the highest tree in Rudell the ripplingriver looks like a man's left hand. Yes, it sure does.

    Well, today all the folks, black and white alike, moved heat-snake slowalong the dusty, unpaved roads, pressed down by the heavy hand of theJuly sun.

    Towering yellow pines raised their angry fists toward the blinding whitesky demanding a long, cool drink. Mosquitoes buzzed and bit, zealous intheir hunt for sweet, moist flesh, especially the plump legs of little brownbaby boys and girls. Good chewing grass, razor thin, glistened like emeraldfire, fanning out as far as the eye could see.

    Funny how nature plays its tricks. Earlier that same year, the spring of1927, the mighty Mississippi River rose higher than ever before in its history.Before its floods were over, the river had turned the Delta valley intolakes of despair. Dikes and levees crumbled, while the river swallowedwhole towns and farms with an insatiable appetite that could not bestopped by man.

    The war between man and nature rode the ever-increasing tide. Still,months after the devastation, lost land and lost lives, recovery was a slowand painful process. The Father of Waters had spared no one, colored orwhite. But times being what they were, the colored who already had solittle now had even less. Yet even the oppressive, relentless heat anduntoldtragedy couldn't stop the parishioners of First Baptist Church from stompingand shouting on this Sunday morning just as on any other.

    The white clapboard building, put together plank by plank by themen of Rudell, offered them little refuge as the steam ascended from themomentum of the congregation bunched together along the crowded,wooden pews.

    The sun streamed in through the handblown windows casting rays ofshimmering color across the wooly heads of the congregation to explodein a ball of brilliant light that gleamed off the ten-foot cross of Christ. Thestrongest members of First Baptist, male and female, had carried that crossin through the narrow door five years ago, piece by piece, nailing it togetherin silent reverence. It stood in proud testament of all they had endured.And they were grateful.

    Today, more than ever, they had much to be thankful for. They'd beenspared.

    "We done seen the wrath of the Lord," Reverend Joshua Harvey ebbedand flowed, his voice an instrument of persuasion. "His mighty hand sweptthe Mississippi from Arkansas to the Gulf of Mexico. Wiped out sinnersand nonbelievers with a puff of his breath."

    "Amen! Yes, Lord," shouted the pulsing throng.

    "`The great flood of '27' we hear tell it called. I say it be the greatcleanser. The Lord's way of riddin' this earth of those who continya ta dous harm." He stretched out his arm and passed it over the packed room."And y'all know who I'm talkin' 'bout."

    "Praise the Lord!"

    "But many of our innocent sistahs and brothas have suffered, too. Theybeen left with even less than the nothin' they had."

    "That's why we's here t'day, Reverend," shouted Deacon Earl, looking'round to see the nods of assent.

    "Amen," again came the response.

    "I knows y'all don't have much," the. Reverend continued. "You workshard to feed yo' families from sunrise till set. But it's up to us who havelittle to share with those who have less."

    Government relief had come to those stricken by the devastation of theflood. But it was slow coming, if at all, to some of the colored sectionsalong the Delta.

    Joshua gazed out at his congregation, the beaten, the downtrodden. Hisdark, all-seeing eyes peered into their souls; his heart heard their prayers.He witnessed the unflinching pride in the bent backs, the clawed hands,and leatherlike faces. Sorrow shadowed their eyes, but hope hung on theirlids. In each one he saw strength from a people who had seen much forany one lifetime. Still, he knew he could ask for more.

    "I knows what I'm askin' is gon' be hard for the lot of ya. But I needsya to dig deeper than yo' pockets. I needs ya to dig inta yo' hearts tohelp those who cain't help themselves. We here in Rudell gotta come togetheronce again as a community and as a people." He paused to let hiswords rest a spell. "The doors ta the church gon' be open all day. Brangwhat chu kin. Deacon Earl gon' be in charge of collectin' whatever y'allkin brang."

    Cora sat in the front line of the choir. The flick of her slender wristmoved the circular cardboard fan in a steady flow in front of her face. Shegazed out at the rows of black bodies, a melody of color, size, and shape.They were hypnotized by the power of her daddy. Pride puffed her chest.Papa Daddy could do anything. He could make you believe the impossible,give you strength when you had none. He made it so easy for her to lifther voice in praise, as much for him as she did for the Lord. She wantedto do them both proud.

    Like so many colored communities, the heart and soul of Rudell couldbe found in the church. Reverend Joshua Harvey was the bedrock uponwhich Rudell was built. Their lightning rod. The calm during the storm. Itwas to him the white folks came when they had trouble with their coloreds,Cora thought. Daddy always found ways to make the peace. But, of course,he made them think it was their own doing. He knew white folks in a wayfew coloreds did in those parts. He spoke their language, knew the powerof their words as well as those of his flock. Daddy carried the weight forall of Rudell on his back.

    While he was not seen as the equal of the whites, something in Daddy'sbearing made them tolerate his uppity ways. He was like the esteemedBooker T. Washington with the powerful white folks up north. Daddy wasjust like that. White folks feared as much as respected him and the quietpower he held over the town. His church was the visual symbol of thatpower.

    "I want y'all to stand now and join our choir in song." Joshua turnedbriefly toward his daughter, a smile of pride on his thick lips. "Lift yo'voices to the Almighty in thanks."

    The choir stood in unison and Cora stepped forward.

David Mackey stood out on the dusty road, his starched white, high-buttonshirt clinging to his moist back. Even his sweat tried to find a place to hidefrom the beating sun, securing sanctuary beneath his stiff shirt collar.

    He whipped out a spotless white handkerchief from the pocket of hisblue serge pants and mopped his brow, then set his straw hat squarely atophis close-cropped head.

    He'd fretted for hours about what to wear, wanting to make the bestimpression. His customary work pants and clean but frayed shirts were finefor visiting his sick and laid-low patients, but not today. Today was special.

    David drew up a deep breath and checked his scarred, gold pocketwatch, a gift from his father.

    Service would be over directly, he calculated, and then he'd see her again.As a matter-o'-fact, if he shut his eyes he could see her face plain as theday is long, as he was sure it would appear while she led the choir throughthe strains of "Swing Low Sweet Chariot." Her powerful contralto voicepoured out of her tiny body, entered the soul, grabbed and shook it.

    The age-old cry of the weary souls seeped through the walls of the one-roombuilding. But it was Cora Harvey's rapturous voice that soared abovethem all.

    Cora Harvey. She was something else. A right pretty thing. He'd spottedher months ago, and upon discrete inquiries he'd found out who she was.That discovery compelled him to keep his distance as much as he wantedto do otherwise. Since then, they'd passed each other on several occasionswhen she made her monthly shopping trips into town. However, up untilthe other afternoon, she'd never paid him no never mind other than apassing wave or flashing that smile of hers. Then they'd run into each otherat Sam's market earlier that week, and she'd given him his first look ofencouragement. Of course her daddy wasn't looking. But he dared notapproach her, not with the good reverend close at hand.

    David sighed. They came from different sides of town. Cora Harvey wasa sharecropper's daughter turned preacherman who worshipped in the BaptistChurch. He, on the other hand, was the one and only colored doctorin Rudell, the surviving son of the now prosperous Mackey family, whopaid his homage—at least some of the time—at the Episcopal Church onthe other side of the dividing line.

    It shouldn't matter none, he mused, but it did. The Baptists were consideredcommon, while the Episcopals were made up of the few educatedcoloreds, those with a bit of money. As much as colored folk had enduredsince they were brought in chains from Africa and stuffed like garbage intothe bowels of death ships, one would think that now they would bandtogether. That was not to be. It wasn't enough that the white folks madeno secret of their disdain for the coloreds; the coloreds did it to themselves.

    David snapped out of his woolgathering at the sound of voices surgingthrough the now opened church doors. He took a quick look at his shoes—whichstill held their shine—wiped his face one last time and walkedforward.

* * *

Cora stood on the plank wood steps of the church, flanked on either sideby her parents, Pearl and Joshua. She looked so soft and beautiful in herpale peach cotton dress, David thought, just like one of those dolls he'donce seen in the Sears Roebuck catalog. Her smooth, pecan-colored skin,with undertones of red, glowed as if lit by an inner sunbeam. Her thick,neatly plated hair was pulled back in one braid that fell to the center ofher back, protected by a sun bonnet that matched her dress. She sure didlook pretty.

    She shook hands with each of the churchgoers, accepting their praisesof her singing with grace and the right amount of humility.

    "Sister Cora, that voice of yours gon' take you straight to heaven, chile.Lordhammercy! Mark my words," professed Lucinda Carver, as the sweatrolled in waves down her plump face.

    "Thank you, Sister Carver. I sure hope so."

    "You just make sho' you hold them pearly gates open for this old sister,"Lucinda chuckled, patting Cora heartily on the arm.

    "See you tomorrow, Cora," Maybelle said, giving her friend a kiss on thecheek. "I's goin' to meet Little Jake at the river," she whispered in Cora'sear, before running down the steps.

    Sassy, Cora's friend since they were both in diapers, stepped up besideher. "That girl gon' get herself in a heap of trouble if her mama ever findsout." Then Sassy giggled. "Harold Jr. say he gon' come by and sit on theporch later when it cool down some. I'll see you later." Sassy, it wasn't herreal name, but that's what she was always called, skipped down the stairs.

    Cora watched her two friends leave and wished she had someone waitingon her, eager to see her under the stars.

    When the last of the parishioners filed out, Joshua slipped into his roleas father, husband, and protector. "Come along, ladies. We best be gettin'on outta this here heat," he instructed them.

    Pearl eased up alongside her towering husband and slipped her armthrough his.

    "Comin', Daddy." Cora took a step down when movement across theroad captured her attention. She felt the muscles in her heart expand andcontract, creating a moment of light-headedness. It was him, that handsome,quiet doctor who made her stomach feel funny inside.

    Pearl's eyes followed the trail of her daughter's. "Oh, Joshua, here comethat nice young doctor." She gave his arm a "come on" squeeze and a quickwink to Cora.

    "How nice kin he be ifn he thinks he's too good to worship in a BaptistChurch? Humph."

    "Joshua," Pearl hissed in warning as David crossed the first step.

    "Afternoon, Mrs. Harvey, Reverend." David tipped his hat and looked atCora. "Miss Cora."

    "Dr. Mackey." Cora gave him her sweetest smile and wished her motherand father would leave her be.

    Silence hung over the quartet as heavy as the heat. The poor boy lookedso nervous from the glare Joshua was hurling his way that Pearl's maternalinstincts leaped to his rescue. "What brings you to First Baptist this hotday, Doctor?" Pearl asked, finally breaking the silence.

     "Well, ma'am," he paused and looked from one parent to the other,wishing that his heart would stop hammering long enough for him to takea breath, "I was hoping you'd allow me to take Miss Cora here over to Joe'sfor a soft drink, maybe some ice cream." He swallowed down the last ofhis fear and plunged on. "That's if Miss Cora is willing." He snatched aquick look at Cora. "I have my auto-mo-bile right 'cross the road. I'd haveher back in plenty of time for supper. I—"

    "What 'chu know 'bout what time we has supper?" Joshua pulled hisblack, wide-brimmed hat a little farther down on his brow, with the intentionof giving his dark features an even more ominous look.

    Cora's face was afire, and it had nothing to do with the heat. She wasmortified. Here she was seventeen years old—eighteen in six months—andher daddy was treating her like a knee-high. When would she ever be ableto court like the other girls she knew? Daddy was always preaching abouthow she needed to settle down. How was she ever supposed to do that ifhe wouldn't let no respectable man near her? Not that marriage was hergoal no how. It was just the whole notion of having someone interested inher, especially a doctor. All the girls would be green with envy.

    She wanted to know what it felt like; wanted to know what she'd heardsome of the girls of the church whisper about. She had yet to be kissed.How could her daddy embarrass her this way? Maybe the earth wouldjust open up, like she'd read about in the picture books, and swallow herwhole.

    "Joshua, for heaven's sake, let the young man speak his piece," Pearlcajoled, seeing the possibilities in the union. "That sounds right nice thathe wants to take Cora for a soft drink. Matter-o'-fact, I could use a long,cool glass of lemonade myself." She looked at Cora, who flashed her asmile of thankful relief. "You ought to take the good doctor up on his offer,Cora. Don't you think so?"

    "Sounds invitin', Dr. Mackey. Is it all right, Daddy?"

    Joshua heard the soft plea in his daughter's voice and saw the eagernessshining in her eyes. In that instant he remembered all too clearly what itfelt like to be young. What it felt like when he'd met his Pearl. He weren'tnothin' more than a paid slave workin' the cotton fields. When he'd draghis weary body home after a day under the Mississippi sun, Pearl wouldrun down the road from her beaverboard shack and bring him a tin ofwater and a piece of dried beef or a biscuit.

    "I figured you'd be thirsty," she'd always say.

    "Right kind of you," he'd answer.

    She'd walk with him part way down the road till he finished his water.

    "Thank you much, Miss Pearl."

    She'd duck her head all shy. "Tomorrow," she'd whisper and run off.

    That musta gone on for months. That and things they didn't talk aboutno more, till Joshua said the two of them would do much better as one.

    "Whatchu sayin'?" Pearl had asked, taking a seat on the top of a flatrock.

    Joshua squeezed his hat in his hands, trying to find the right words. Heshifted from one foot to the next. "You what I look for at the end of theday, Pearl," he finally said. "Thinkin' 'bout you out in dem fields makesme remember I's still a man, not some pack mule like Mistah Jackson makeme out to be. I kin be somethin', Pearl. Somebody. You believe that?"

    "I knowed it from the first time I saw you hitchin' down that roadyonder."

    "I got dreams, Pearl. I want to have my own church one day, preach theword. I—I want you to be a part of that."

    "That yo' fancy way of askin' me to jump the broom wit you?"

    Joshua grinned like a young boy, seeing the challenge in her eyes. "I'spose."

    "Then I 'spose I will."

    And she'd been by his side ever since, sunup to down. Never complaining,no matter how bad times had gotten. Pearl was his strength, his reasonfor everything. Her faith in him, her unwavering love, was his joy. AndCora was just like her.

    Truth be known, he'd like nothing better than to see his strong-willedCora married off and secure. It would sho' nuff make Pearl happy. A good,solid husband may just be the thing Cora needed to tame her willful ways.But that didn't mean he had to make it easy for any man who thought hewas good enough to come a courtin' his baby girl. Especially an Episcopaldoctor—and one from the other side of Rudell at that.

    "I `spose," he finally grumbled. "We have Sunday supper at four o'clocksharp."

    Pearl briefly lowered her bonneted head to hide her smile. "You mightthink 'bout joining us, Doctor. I fix a fine table."

    Joshua threw her a cutting glance, but kept his own counsel.

    "I just might, ma'am. Thank you." He looked at Joshua, who gave animperceptible nod of approval. The day is beginning to look better everyminute, David thought.

    Cora gave her mother and father each a peck on the cheek and steppeddown.

    "I'll be sure to have her back in plenty of time for supper, Reverend."

    "Be sho' you do," Joshua added for good measure.

    Cora couldn't believe her luck as she walked side-by-side with Daviddown the church steps out onto the road. The saints must surely be withher today, she mused, tossing up a silent prayer of thanks. Her father hadnever so much as entertained the notion of her courting, even though allthe other girls her age had a steady beau. "You're not other girls," JoshuaHarvey would boom in his preacher voice. "You the daughter of the reverendof this town, and you ain't gon' be seen with just anybody."

    Well, Dr. David Mackey must sure be somebody, she thought, delighted.

    "I'm right happy your folks let me take you out for a spell, Miss Cora,"David said in a hushed voice as they crossed the road to his Model T.

    She looked up into his dark face, eyes like polished black opals, and heryoung heart panged in her chest. "So am I, Dr. Mackey." She batted her eyesdemurely as she'd seen some of her churchgoing sisters do, and she wouldhave sworn David blushed beneath his roasted chestnut complexion.

    Strong, large hands caught her waist as David helped her step up intothe seat, and Cora was no longer sure it! it was the force of the blazing sunor a fire that had been lit inside of her that caused the surge of heat to runamok through her body Settling herself against the soft, cushioned seat,she adjusted her hat while David rounded the hood and hopped up besideher.

    "All set?"

    Cora nodded, suddenly unsure of herself.

    The Model T bucked, chugged, coughed up some smoke, and finallypulled off down the rutty road, bouncing and bumping all the way. As theydrove by the rows of makeshift shacks, half nude children playing in theriver and old wrinkled women smoking corn pipes all stopped and staredat the handsome couple in the automobile. To see colored folks drivingwas rarer than having meat for dinner once a month.

    But instead of feeling like a specimen under glass, Cora felt like royalty.She smiled and waved to everyone who came out on the road, wide-eyed,to greet them. Little children ran alongside the car until they grew weary,and the old Model T chugged out of sight.

    "Did you go to Sunday service today, Dr. Mackey?" Cora asked, needingto break the silence that hung between them like clothes drying on a line.

    David cleared his throat. "No. Not today" He shrugged, then chuckledlightly, "Truth be told, it's awhile since I been to church."

    Cora angled her head in his direction, surprise widening her sparkling,brown eyes. "Why? Don't you have anything to be thankful for?"

    "Sure I do. Except I don't think you need to set up in a building to givethanks. I believe that God can hear my prayers and my thanks fromwherever I am."

    Cora frowned, tossing around this new idea. What David was sayingmay well have been Greek for all the sense it made to her. It never occurredto her not to attend Sunday service. She'd been brought up and reared inthe church. All of her friends attended. They had social functions, didthings for the community, helped each other out in crises. Why just theother week, the sisters got together and took turns sitting with old MissRiley, who'd been feeling poorly for months. She didn't know what she'ddo if she didn't have her church and her church family Besides, on Sundaymornings, she could do what she loved more than anything, raise her voicein song.

    "But—it's more than that," she protested, convinced that she was right."It's about belonging to something that has meaning, being a part of something."

    "That may be, Miss Cora, and I don't fault no one for going. I don'twant you to get me wrong. I do set foot in from time to time, just notright regular." He turned briefly to her, hoping that his revelation hadn'tput her off, especially with her being the preacher's daughter and all. Butthe reality was, he wanted to be honest with her.

    "If Christians are supposed to love all men, then what's the differencebetween your church and mine? What makes one better than the other—theamount of money you put in the collection basket, how large thecongregation, what side of town you worship on?" he asked with honestsincerity.

    Cora crossed her arms beneath her small breasts. She listened to whathe said. Secretly she'd wondered the same things, but she'd never dared tovoice her concerns, ask her questions.

    "You're a very interesting man, Dr. Mackey," she said, still unwilling togive in. "You done put something on my head to ponder."

    "That's a start," he said, turning to her with a grin.

    It was then she noticed the deep dimple in his right cheek and knew,that barring everything else, whatever differences might separate them, shewanted to see more of him, hear his strange thoughts, and maybe becomeexposed to a side of life she'd never known existed.

    Shortly, they arrived in the center of town and pulled to a stop in frontof Joe's. David quickly hurried around and helped Cora from her seat. Sheimmediately felt the curious gazes from the townspeople as they went abouttheir Sunday business, the surprised look from friends of her father andmother as she took David's arm and walked toward the shop.

    Voice by voice, conversation ceased as heads turned toward the opendoor. The heat stood like a man between them, separating them from thebrown, tan, and black bodies, then was buffeted about by the slow, swirlingceiling fan—the only one in town.

    The interior was dim and it took Cora a moment to adjust her eyes fromthe glare of the outside.

    David glanced down the narrow aisle and cleared his throat. "There's atable in the back," he said, indicating the vacancy with a stretch of his arm.

    They proceeded through the gauntlet of probing eyes.

    Cora's gaze faltered for a moment, then darted briefly about, a taut smiledrawing her mouth into a thin line.

    "Afternoon, Miss Wheeler," Cora, said, remembering her manners as sherecognized her nosey neighbor from down the road.

    "Cora Harvey," Sarah Wheeler droned, long as the quitting whistle at thecotton mill. "I didn't know the good Reverend let you keep comp'ny." Hertiny eyes skipped across David's face. "Dr. Mackey, ain't you lookin' finethis bright day."


Excerpted from Rhythms by DONNA HILL. Copyright © 2001 by Donna Hill. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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Reading Group Guide

It all began in 1927, in the small town of Rudell, Mississippi, after the sudden and tragic death of Cora Harvey's parents. She has nothing left except her burning desire to become a singer. But her dream will never come true in Rudell, especially if she marries the man she adores, Dr. David Mackey. So when she sets out for Chicago, everyone in the close knit community, including David believes that the next time they see Cora, her name will be in lights. However, it's not long before Cora finds herself back in Rudell and back in David's arms harboring a secret she dare not reveal. . .A secret that will cause her daughter, Emma to flee Rudell with no intention of ever looking back. And even when Emma finds the perfect man and happiness at last, she is determined to do whatever it takes to keep her family's shameful past at bay. Then the dream that began with Cora comes full circle with her beloved granddaughter Parris whose melodic voice fills the dimly lit nightclubs of New York City. Yet, when tragedy strikes, opening a door to the past, Parris discovers the hidden truths that have ripped the family apart—-but which may ultimately bind them together at last.

From the dusty roads of the Delta to the pulsing metropolis of New York City, Rhythms is a rich, unforgettable tale about loss and healing, redemption and love.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 4 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 9, 2013

    Wonderful Book!

    Loved this book!

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

    Posted January 13, 2005

    What an Amazing Novel

    To be perfectly honest with you, this book had me going from the very beginning! To experience the new love of David and Cora, to feeling the pain and strife Cora felt when her parents were killed! The entire time reading the book, it had me on an emotional roller coaster. I would laugh, cry and feel exactly what the character was feeling inside. My only question is, is there a book to follow????

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 16, 2003

    A Rhythmic Journey

    Rhythms by Donna Hill is an intricately woven tale of three generations of women. Cora, the daughter of a Baptist preacher, has the voice of an angel. Cora leaves the small town of Rudell, MS to pursue her dream of becoming a famous singer. However, after a tragic event occurs, she returns to Rudell harboring a big secret. After giving birth to a white-looking baby, she is forced to live in shame and isolation. Cora's daughter, Emma, is an outcast because she looks differently than everyone else in town. As soon as she can, she runs away to live in New York as a white woman, figuring life would be so much easier there. Emma finally finds happiness and the perfect man. All is well until Emma becomes pregnant She is determined to do whatever it takes not to allow her secret to be exposed. Parris, Cora's granddaughter, inherits Cora's exceptional singing voice. Cora showers Parris with the love she was unable to give Emma. Parris also leaves Rudell for the big city to pursue a singing career just as her grandmother did years ago. Again, tragedy strikes, but this time, secrets are revealed instead of hidden. Rhythms is excellent novel that draws on all of your emotions. It is a book of lessons: lessons of love, acceptance, and forgiveness. Hill's lyrical writing and descriptive prose transports you into the book alongside the characters. You smell the aroma of down home cooking and hear the rhythmic sounds of music of the times. Rhythms truly shows the scope of this esteemed writer's talent. <BR> <BR> Tina <BR> R.E.A.L. Reviewers

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 15, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews

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