&$151;The New York Times Book Review
Sweet Whispers, Brother Rushby Virginia Hamilton
Why had he come to her, with his dark secrets from a long-ago past? What was the purpose of their strange, haunting journeys back into her own childhood? Was it to help Dab, her retarded older brother, wracked with mysterious pain who sometimes took more care and love than Tree had to give? Was it for her mother, Vy, who loved them the best she knew how, but wasn't… See more details below
Why had he come to her, with his dark secrets from a long-ago past? What was the purpose of their strange, haunting journeys back into her own childhood? Was it to help Dab, her retarded older brother, wracked with mysterious pain who sometimes took more care and love than Tree had to give? Was it for her mother, Vy, who loved them the best she knew how, but wasn't home enough to ease the terrible longing?
Whatever secrets his whispered message held, Tree knew she must follow. She must follow Brother Rush through the magic mirror, and find out the truth. About all of them.
&$151;The New York Times Book Review
Read an Excerpt
The first time Teresa saw Brother was the way she would think of him ever after. Tree fell head over heels for him. It was love at first sight in a wild beating of her heart that took her breath. But it was a dark Friday three weeks later when it rained, hard and wicked, before she knew Brother Rush was a ghost.
That first time Tree didn't notice that it was odd the way Brother happened to be there. He had been standing on a corner of Race Street the way the dudes will do after school, whether they went to school or not. He was standing cool, waiting for whatever would happen to happen, just the way all the dudes did. Tree had come swinging around the corner of Race Street at Detroit Avenue on her way home. She was holding her books tight to her chest, hiding herself from the dudes. She had begun growing into a woman, which was the reason the dudes had started to catcall to her.
"Hey, little girl, when you going to let me take you out?"
"Sweet Tree, I'll walk you home, bay-buh. Do Dab know you walkin by these shifless clowns alone? Do your brother leave you in the house by you-sef?"
"Shu-man, you know Dab n'goin nowhere, and Tree comin home from schoo."
"I'll brang you home, Teresa, since you gone and grown so fine."
Tree felt so ashamed of them, ashamed they had to go pick on her. One or two of them were quick to understand she wasn't ready for them.
"Stop it, yo'w," they told the others. "She ain cooked good yet." And laughed about it.
Tree knew they weren't bad dudes.
They laughed and joked so much to keep back that fear look -- Tree had seen it -- from showing through the hard glinting of their hungry eyes.
It was when Tree was almost by them and they had stopped their calling after her that she had spied Brother Rush. He had been leaning on a stoop of an apartment building. She didn't have time to think about the fact that he was off by himself, although she made note of it. The other dudes didn't so much ignore him as they seemed to have forgotten about him. They acted like they didn't even know him or hadn't paid attention that he had come to lean there.
Tree saw him at once. It was the way you see something that has been there all of the time, but you never had eyes open wide enough to see. It was like the figure of him jumped right out of space at her. Brother Rush hit her in one never-to-be-forgotten impression.
His suit was good enough for a funeral or a wedding.
Better than a suit for Sunday church or one for Thanksgiving. It was just too dressy for a school concert when you have the main solo. You have been paid thirtyfive bills to sing because you are a home boy, a graduate of the school who has done all right and has come on back as an example for the rest of the dudes. Dudes who will not yet admit that they will never leave Race Street or Detroit Avenue, either, although they know they won't. They do know, now.
The suit was dark and rich looking, pinstripe perfection. The shirt was ivory with a shiny sword design that gave it more class than any shirt Tree had ever seen. The collar was uncrushed around Brother Rush's neck, but not so tight so that it bothered his Adam's apple. His tie was deep wine-dark, and silky. The belt he wore was black and the buckle was silver, and spelled "Jazz" in the prettiest script. That convinced Tree he was a musician, and she decided he was a piano player. Brother's shoes were black patent leather dress shoes with a high gloss, which he wore over gray silk socks.
As far as Tree could tell that first time, Brother Rush's clothes, were picture perfect. She imagined his underwear. He'd have on a snow-white undershirt with short sleeves; soft-cottony shorts. Nothing like her brother Dab's Fruit-of-the-Loom with ratty tears. Brother's underwear would have no worn-through places.
She hadn't realized that it was the message out of Brother's eyes that had caught her, had captured her. It had all happened too fast. She had the impression of unbelievable good looks -- tallness, slimness, those funeral clothes she'd never seen on any dude. Not even the ones into criminality dressed like Brother Rush, the ones who strutted flash-smart and pimp-fine, as her Muh Vy said, upper lip curling.
Tree understood that the way Brother Rush was dressed expressed his style as well as his melancholy. She made fleeting notice that Brother's skin was a pale brown with a good sprinkling of reddish freckles. He had refined features and full lips. His large nose was long, straight, with flared nostrils. His hair had the same reddish tint of the freckles, soft and tightly curled. And he wore suede gloves. She summed up her impression of him as absolutely handsome. His was an appearance of trim, muscular maleness, including his eyes. She deniedthe message that was there in his eyes. It had gone too deeply inside her for her to fathom it at once. Even so, his, eyes had taken her prisoner.Sweet Whispers, Brother Rush. Copyright © by Virginia Hamilton. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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