Some Things I Never Thought I'd Do

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With the unique blend of truth and humor that made her first novel, What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day . . ., a huge bestseller, Pearl Cleage returns with an extraordinary novel that is rich in character, steeped in sisterhood, and bursting with unexpected love . . . and maybe just a little magic.

Depending on the time of day, Regina Burns is a woman on the edge of a nervous breakdown or an overdue breakthrough. One shattered heart and ...

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Overview

With the unique blend of truth and humor that made her first novel, What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day . . ., a huge bestseller, Pearl Cleage returns with an extraordinary novel that is rich in character, steeped in sisterhood, and bursting with unexpected love . . . and maybe just a little magic.

Depending on the time of day, Regina Burns is a woman on the edge of a nervous breakdown or an overdue breakthrough. One shattered heart and six months of rehab have left her wary and shell-shocked—especially with the prospect of taking a temporary consulting job in Atlanta, a move that would allow Regina to rescue the family home that she borrowed against when she was “a stomp down dope fiend.” Her stone-faced banker has grudgingly agreed to give her sixty days to settle her debts or lose the house.

Returning to Atlanta is a big risk. Last time Regina was there, she lost track of who she was and what she wanted. There’s a lot of emotional baggage with her new employer, Beth Davis. Can she really forgive Beth for breaking up her wedding plans on New Year’s Eve because she just didn’t think Regina was good enough to marry her son?

Meanwhile, Regina’s visionary Aunt Abbie has told her to be on the lookout for a handsome stranger with “the ocean in his eyes” who has a bone to pick and a promise to keep. Then a blue-eyed brother appears on the streets of Afro-Atlanta wearing a black cashmere overcoat, flashing a dazzling smile, and lending a helping hand when Regina needs it most. But between falling for Blue Hamilton and dealing with Beth, secrets will emerge that will threaten to send her life twistingin surprising new directions.

Like a conversation with a good friend, Some Things I Never Thought I’d Do shares hope, love, and laugher. As always, it is Pearl Cleage’s unforgettable characters and her gift for dialogue that will earn this provocative new novel a place in the hearts of her growing family of readers.


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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Past is prologue-literally-for a young African-American woman making a fresh start in Cleage's (What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day...) highly readable third novel. Just out of rehab and nearly bankrupt, 34-year-old Regina Burns receives a much-needed job offer from motivational speaker Beth Davis, a former employer. At 24, Regina went to work for Beth as a speechwriter and special assistant, helping Beth bring her message of empowerment to a growing national audience. The two women were accompanied by Beth's 20-something only child, known to all as Son. Regina fell in love with Son, but agreed to hide the romance from disapproving Beth. When they were discovered, Son broke up with Regina rather than upset his mother, driving Regina back home to D.C. and into a cocaine habit. Just as she is on the verge of losing everything, word of Son's death in New York on September 11 shocks Regina into rehab. When Beth decides to donate Son's papers to his alma mater, Morehouse College, she hires Regina to coordinate the project. Upon arriving in Atlanta, Regina runs into charismatic Blue Hamilton, an ex-singer who becomes her landlord. Blue wields an odd power over a peaceful city enclave bordered by threatening neighborhoods-and over Regina as well. As she works quickly to organize Son's papers, Regina must decide what to do with growing evidence of a secret life he kept hidden from Beth. At the same time Regina fears for Blue's safety when neighborhood tensions begin to escalate. The novel takes a creative path to a predictable ending, neatly resolving several plot lines. Regina is a delightful narrator: frank, self-aware and keenly observant. Cleage stumbles with the story's brief detour into the supernatural, but this distracting misstep only slightly diminishes the story's appeal. 8-city author tour. (Sept.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Regina Burns is attempting to reestablish her life after rehab, rescue her childhood house from debt, and recover from the death of the love of her life. All this requires her to take a temporary job with her former employer, the charismatic motivational guru Beth Davis. Regina's move to Atlanta introduces her to a mysterious man and a seemingly ideal world. Cleage creates a story that often borders on the pedantic while mixing romance, politics (sexual and neighborhood), the supernatural, gang warfare, and Civil Rights history. Reader Angela Forrest captures Regina's point of view expertly, making her wonder and yearnings plausible with the right vocal expressions. Not quite as engaging as Cleage's other two novels, but the secrets and characters are compelling enough to sustain the tale. Joyce Kessel, Villa Maria Coll., Buffalo, NY Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
From Oprah author Cleage (What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day . . . , 1997, etc.), a romance steeped in black feminism with a dollop of spiritual mysticism. Two years ago, Regina Burns slid into drug addiction after her fiancé, Son, dropped her at the behest of his powerful mother and her employer, the Atlanta-based motivational speaker Beth Davis, whose cause is registering black women to vote. Regina's now successfully completed rehab but needs $30,000 to save the family home in Washington, DC (why a house that's been in the family for three generations has a mortgage is one of the little nagging inconsistencies typical here). Meanwhile, Son, dedicated to motivating men to act responsibly, has died in the World Trade Center attacks. How can Regina refuse her old nemesis Beth's job offer when it not only pays exactly the money she needs, but also entails arranging the transfer of Son's papers to Morehouse College in a grand ceremony? Before Regina leaves for Atlanta, her aunt Abbie shares her prophetic vision of what lies in Regina's future: in particular a blue-eyed man she'll marry. And guess who Regina meets on her first morning: Blue Hamilton, a former singer turned neighborhood savior/benefactor/vigilante, whose eyes are startlingly blue. Blue quickly recognizes Regina as the woman warrior he disappointed in a previous life as emperor of a powerful black nation. Regina moves into his well-appointed apartment house, makes lovely friends who dress beautifully, live graciously and eat delicious food. Lip service is paid to a plot involving political intrigue, Son's love-child, and some bad guys trying to reintroduce violence into the neighborhood Blue has cleaned up, but althoughRegina never misses an opportunity to talk about black and female empowerment, the world that's described in loving detail is almost fairy-tale perfect. Since Cleage never quite confronts the murky morality of Blue as a black Dirty Harry, there are few bumps along Regina's happy romance trail. Lively, fluid, disappointingly shallow. Author tour. Agent: Denise Stinson
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780792730231
  • Publisher: BBC Audiobooks America
  • Publication date: 9/28/2003
  • Format: Cassette
  • Edition description: Unabridged
  • Product dimensions: 7.30 (w) x 6.20 (h) x 1.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Pearl Cleage

Pearl Cleage is the author of Mad at Miles: A Black Woman’s Guide to Truth, Deals with the Devil and Other Reasons to Riot, and her bestselling debut novel, What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day.... An accomplished dramatist, her plays include Flyin’ West and Blues for an Alabama Sky. Ms. Cleage lives in Atlanta with her husband.


To schedule a speaking engagement, please contact American Program Bureau at www.apbspeakers.com  

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Read an Excerpt

1

I have really screwed up now. This man is actually sitting behind that great big desk telling me he’s going to take my house. The house I was born in! The house my mother was born in! He must be crazy.

I know I’m the one who borrowed against it. I know I’m the one who didn’t make the payments on time. I know all that. That’s the first thing they teach you in rehab, to accept responsibility for the stuff you did when you were a stomp-down dope fiend, and I do, but I never thought they would actually take the house. What good is trying to reform if you have to spend the rest of your life paying for the stupid things you did when you still got high and didn’t give a damn?

Of course, I don’t say all that to this little weasel-faced white man who probably has no life at all outside of this windowless office where he gets to bring up your file on his computer and then swivel it around so you can see all those missed payments and bounced checks, daring you to deny them.

He clearly does not want to hear my tale of woe. Having your heart broken and thinking cocaine can fix it does not qualify as an appropriate topic for discussion with your banker. I know this from experience, so I skip the explanations and start right in on the serious begging.

Please, I say, I’m okay now. I just got a good job. I’ll have enough to bring everything current if you can just give me a little more time.

He ignores me. He’s heard all this before. He knows the house has been in our family for three generations. He knows I was born there. He knows my grandparents got married there. He knows it is morethan a house. That it is an essential part of our family history, our memories, our dreams. He knows it is a sacred trust passed from one woman in our family, to the next one, and the next one, and, finally, to me.

He knows all this because I have told him many times. I want him to understand that losing this place is not an option. I’m not going to greet my mama in paradise and tell her I snorted up her mama’s house because I wanted a man who didn’t want me. If I tell her that, I’ll have to tell her that during that same amazing eighteen months, I also lost my credibility as a journalist by sleeping with all the edi- tors I wasn’t doing drugs with, missing deadlines like it was a sport, and, in the last few months before I finally went into rehab, behaving badly at several important Washington social events, culminating in the unforgettable evening when I cussed out a congressman, spilled a drink on his wife, and wrecked my car all in one forty-five-minute period.

But that was then. This is now. I’ve been clean for almost six months, and as soon as I get paid from this new job, I’ll pay the weasel what I owe and he can go swivel his screen at some other poor fool. All I need is a ninety-day extension. Just three months, I hear myself still begging. I’ll be able to bring everything current. I promise!

The weasel raises his eyebrows to let me know he doesn’t buy it for one second. He glances down at the screen again, and I mentally prepare myself to segue from begging to groveling. I’m ready to roll around on the floor and tear my hair, if that’s what it takes. I’m the one who messed everything up, but I’m also the one who is going to make it right. Starting with this house.

The weasel is still staring at the screen. He better hope whatever he needs to see there to give me my ninety days shows up in the next sixty seconds because I am this close to dragging him across that desk and whipping his smug little ass until somebody comes to pull me off him. This close.

Then he sighs deeply and looks up. Sixty days, he says, like it’s killing him. I’ll give you sixty days.

And I want to say, It’s not even your money, so why are you acting so shitty in a moment that is already shitty enough without your adding a single thing?

But it’s not his fault. I wouldn’t even be sitting here if I hadn’t done the things I did. The reason he’s acting like he’s doing me a favor is because he is doing me a favor. They could have taken the house two months ago, and no amount of world-class begging could have stopped them if the weasel hadn’t let me slide. Being mad at him is a waste of time, and if I’ve learned anything, it’s that time is all you’ve got.

Thank you, I say, standing up to go before he can change his mind. He stands up and reluctantly shakes the hand I offer. He’s giving me that disapproving stone face like he’s Robert Young on Father Knows Best and I’m Kitten trying to hide a bad report card.

I’m at the door when he calls my name, and my first reaction is to keep walking like I don’t hear him, but that would be gutless, and courage is one of the things I’m supposed to be working on, so I stop and half turn back toward him. Yes?

Good luck, he says with a smile that’s almost human.

Thanks, I say, smiling back, even if he is my banker. I’m going to need it.

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Table of Contents

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First Chapter

1

I have really screwed up now. This man is actually sitting behind that great big desk telling me he's going to take my house. The house I was born in! The house my mother was born in! He must be crazy.

I know I'm the one who borrowed against it. I know I'm the one who didn't make the payments on time. I know all that. That's the first thing they teach you in rehab, to accept responsibility for the stuff you did when you were a stomp-down dope fiend, and I do, but I never thought they would actually take the house. What good is trying to reform if you have to spend the rest of your life paying for the stupid things you did when you still got high and didn't give a damn?

Of course, I don't say all that to this little weasel-faced white man who probably has no life at all outside of this windowless office where he gets to bring up your file on his computer and then swivel it around so you can see all those missed payments and bounced checks, daring you to deny them.

He clearly does not want to hear my tale of woe. Having your heart broken and thinking cocaine can fix it does not qualify as an appropriate topic for discussion with your banker. I know this from experience, so I skip the explanations and start right in on the serious begging.

Please, I say, I'm okay now. I just got a good job. I'll have enough to bring everything current if you can just give me a little more time.

He ignores me. He's heard all this before. He knows the house has been in our family for three generations. He knows I was born there. He knows my grandparents got married there. He knows it is more than a house. That it is an essential part of our familyhistory, our memories, our dreams. He knows it is a sacred trust passed from one woman in our family, to the next one, and the next one, and, finally, to me.

He knows all this because I have told him many times. I want him to understand that losing this place is not an option. I'm not going to greet my mama in paradise and tell her I snorted up her mama's house because I wanted a man who didn't want me. If I tell her that, I'll have to tell her that during that same amazing eighteen months, I also lost my credibility as a journalist by sleeping with all the edi- tors I wasn't doing drugs with, missing deadlines like it was a sport, and, in the last few months before I finally went into rehab, behaving badly at several important Washington social events, culminating in the unforgettable evening when I cussed out a congressman, spilled a drink on his wife, and wrecked my car all in one forty-five-minute period.

But that was then. This is now. I've been clean for almost six months, and as soon as I get paid from this new job, I'll pay the weasel what I owe and he can go swivel his screen at some other poor fool. All I need is a ninety-day extension. Just three months, I hear myself still begging. I'll be able to bring everything current. I promise!

The weasel raises his eyebrows to let me know he doesn't buy it for one second. He glances down at the screen again, and I mentally prepare myself to segue from begging to groveling. I'm ready to roll around on the floor and tear my hair, if that's what it takes. I'm the one who messed everything up, but I'm also the one who is going to make it right. Starting with this house.

The weasel is still staring at the screen. He better hope whatever he needs to see there to give me my ninety days shows up in the next sixty seconds because I am this close to dragging him across that desk and whipping his smug little ass until somebody comes to pull me off him. This close.

Then he sighs deeply and looks up. Sixty days, he says, like it's killing him. I'll give you sixty days.

And I want to say, It's not even your money, so why are you acting so shitty in a moment that is already shitty enough without your adding a single thing?

But it's not his fault. I wouldn't even be sitting here if I hadn't done the things I did. The reason he's acting like he's doing me a favor is because he is doing me a favor. They could have taken the house two months ago, and no amount of world-class begging could have stopped them if the weasel hadn't let me slide. Being mad at him is a waste of time, and if I've learned anything, it's that time is all you've got.

Thank you, I say, standing up to go before he can change his mind. He stands up and reluctantly shakes the hand I offer. He's giving me that disapproving stone face like he's Robert Young on Father Knows Best and I'm Kitten trying to hide a bad report card.

I'm at the door when he calls my name, and my first reaction is to keep walking like I don't hear him, but that would be gutless, and courage is one of the things I'm supposed to be working on, so I stop and half turn back toward him. Yes?

Good luck, he says with a smile that's almost human.

Thanks, I say, smiling back, even if he is my banker. I'm going to need it.

Copyright© 2003 by Pearl Cleage
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Reading Group Guide

With the unique blend of truth and humor that made her first novel, What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day . . ., a huge bestseller, Pearl Cleage returns with an extraordinary novel that is rich in character, steeped in sisterhood, and bursting with unexpected love . . . and maybe just a little magic.

Depending on the time of day, Regina Burns is a woman on the edge of a nervous breakdown or an overdue breakthrough. One shattered heart and six months of rehab have left her wary and shell-shocked—especially with the prospect of taking a temporary consulting job in Atlanta, a move that would allow Regina to rescue the family home that she borrowed against when she was “a stomp down dope fiend.” Her stone-faced banker has grudgingly agreed to give her sixty days to settle her debts or lose the house.

Returning to Atlanta is a big risk. Last time Regina was there, she lost track of who she was and what she wanted. There’s a lot of emotional baggage with her new employer, Beth Davis. Can she really forgive Beth for breaking up her wedding plans on New Year’s Eve because she just didn’t think Regina was good enough to marry her son?

Meanwhile, Regina’s visionary Aunt Abbie has told her to be on the lookout for a handsome stranger with “the ocean in his eyes” who has a bone to pick and a promise to keep. Then a blue-eyed brother appears on the streets of Afro-Atlanta wearing a black cashmere overcoat, flashing a dazzling smile, and lending a helping hand when Regina needs it most. But between falling for Blue Hamilton and dealing with Beth, secrets will emerge that will threaten to send her life twisting insurprising new directions.

Like a conversation with a good friend, Some Things I Never Thought I’d Do shares hope, love, and laugher. As always, it is Pearl Cleage’s unforgettable characters and her gift for dialogue that will earn this provocative new novel a place in the hearts of her growing family of readers.
Read More Show Less

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