The Things I Know Best: A Novel

( 1 )

Overview

The townsfolk in Pleasant Cross, North Carolina, carry a healthy suspicion of the three generations of Ivy women. Each Ivy woman has been blessed with the gift of Knowing, but it's eighteen-year-old Tessa and her unique powers that cause folks to raise their eyebrows. When Rev. Renfrow and his son, Sterling, roll into town with their Airstream trailer and special brand of faith, things will never be the same, as a tragic secret is uncovered and the Ivy women learn the true ...

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The Things I Know Best

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Overview

The townsfolk in Pleasant Cross, North Carolina, carry a healthy suspicion of the three generations of Ivy women. Each Ivy woman has been blessed with the gift of Knowing, but it's eighteen-year-old Tessa and her unique powers that cause folks to raise their eyebrows. When Rev. Renfrow and his son, Sterling, roll into town with their Airstream trailer and special brand of faith, things will never be the same, as a tragic secret is uncovered and the Ivy women learn the true meaning of kinship and hope.

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Editorial Reviews

Malachy McCourt
“A lovely book.”
Robert Inman
“Hinton is a wise and elegant storyteller...a book to be savored and treasured.
Joan Medlicott
“A wise and deeply moving story .The language of this novel soars and lifts one’s spirit with it.”
Malachy McCourt
"A lovely book."
Robert Inman
"Hinton is a wise and elegant storyteller...a book to be savored and treasured.
Joan Medlicott
"A wise and deeply moving story .The language of this novel soars and lifts one’s spirit with it."
Marianne Williamson
Exceptionally compelling.
Robert Inman
Hinton is a wise and elegant storyteller...a book to be savored and treasured.
Joan Medlicott
A wise and deeply moving story .The language of this novel soars and lifts one's spirit with it.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Hinton's second book is an even more compelling and enjoyable slice of smalltown life than her bestselling debut novel, Friendship Cake. Tessa, the 18-year-old narrator, belongs to the Ivy clan: a trailer-park-dwelling family full of strong women with unusual gifts for "knowing" things. Tessa's mother, Mama Bertie, can predict deaths in the community; her grandmother foretells the weather; and her twin sister, Liddy, reads palms. Tessa's own cryptic glimpses of the future come in tea leaves and dreams. The novel revolves around her attempts to unravel the mysteries of her visions and her family's secrets. There is Mama Bertie's bitter enmity toward her best friend from youth (an issue no one will discuss), and her suspiciously close relationship with the preacher. There is the strange hostility of Mr. Jenkins, one of the richest men in town. And there is the deeply spiritual Reverend Renfrew, who rolls into town in an old Airstream trailer with his own secrets and ways of "knowing." Hinton guides us through this landscape of absorbing characters with good humor and a gift for mixing the mystical with the everyday. Dialogues take place amid simple activities brought so cinematically to life that the visual images fairly jump out. Hinton even escapes triteness in her description of Tessa's first love, a relationship that pulls everyone's secrets together and out into the open. The prose is fresh, the characters absorbing, and Hinton achieves the resolution of the novel's mysteries through a satisfying blend of love, death, grace and redemption. (May) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The author of Friendship Cake (not reviewed) takes readers to tiny Pleasant Cross, North Carolina, where everybody knows everybody else's business-and some know more. Eighteen-year-old Tessa Ivy, for one. She has second sight, like all the women in her family: Grandma Pinot can foretell the weather; Aunt Doris interprets dreams; and Tessa's twin sister, Liddy, reads palms. Townsfolk fear the supernatural skill the Ivy women call "Knowing," although some see it as a strange gift from God. It certainly hasn't made them rich: the local undertaker pays a monthly allowance to the twins' Mama Bertie, who can predict who will die next, but aside from that small windfall the Ivys just get by like everyone else. When Liddy takes a job at a seedy bar on the outskirts of town, Mama Bertie is furious, but she's got other things to worry about. Tessa is injured in a car crash, slips into a coma, and awakens to find that her ability to perceive what others can't has intensified. She drifts through her days, seeing the mundane world around her in a very different light, then falls in love with a young man she barely knows: Sterling Renfrow, the adopted son of a traveling black preacher. Sterling is biracial, but no one seems to know who his parents were. Tessa doesn't care, even though it's risky to cross the color line in rural North Carolina. She is beset by visions and nightmares that provide tantalizing clues to the identities of Sterling's parents. Reverend Renfrow, a charismatic and powerful man, dies of a stroke before he can enlighten her, but Tessa understands at the close that the reverend had a Knowing all his own. Lyrical and light, with an appealing small-town cast. Authortour
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780062517289
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 10/14/2003
  • Pages: 176
  • Sales rank: 1,080,553
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.39 (d)

Meet the Author

Lynne Hinton

A retreat leader and writing teacher, Lynne Hinton is the author of numerous novels including Pie Town, Wedding Cake, Christmas Cake, Friendship Cake, Hope Springs, and Forever Friends. She also writes a mystery series under the name Jackie Lynn. She lives in New Mexico.

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Read an Excerpt

The Things I Know Best
A NovelChapter One

Tiny pieces of myself floated to the top glass, and I began to read my future in tea leaves. Mama and the preacher in the cabin by Sandy Creek, Liddy standing at the Trailways station near a bus going to Atlanta, Mr. Jenkins and the cut of his small, dark eyes, and some union of colors I don't yet recognize. Scrap by scrap, they all danced along the lip like memories in the wake of death. As they brooded and twitched, I stared down into my tomorrow wondering if I should drink from the cup or run to the sink and pour it out.

Reading hands is my sister's means of Knowing. Tiny crooked lines leading up and down, front to back, thumb to wrist, these are the roads she travels. Her fingers hot on your skin, she'll close her eyes, go all blind-looking, her lips counting marks, measuring curves and stops. She can give you the first letter of your lover's last name and open up the secrets of your heart. She's been touching palms since she was a little girl, understanding the life and death that people clutch in their fists in the name of love. By the time she turned nine, everybody in town knew she had the gift.

In spite of our recognizing it at such an early age, though, nobody treated her any more special than they did me. In our family, Knowing is a common sense; and even before I was sure like today that I had it, I knew stuff. All of the women have some form of it. Grandma Pinot interprets the sky, predicts weather patterns, upcoming anomalies, drought, that sort of thing.

Aunt Doris reads dreams and can tell a pregnant woman the sex of her unborn child. Great-grandmother Lodie could heal troublesome ailmentsand call out evil spirits from the sick and cursed. And her mother before her, Big Lucille, was known to associate with ghosts.

All of the Ivy women have a little something extra that causes the people in town to have a healthy suspicion of our family. So the fact that I now see snatches of another day's events in my afternoon drink isn't frightening or alien; it merely establishes my gift in the parade of women who birthed me and brought me up.

Aunt Doris asked me when I was thirteen and had just started my period if I'd had any special dreams on the night before I'd seen blood. I thought back to what I'd dreamed: I remembered the softness of the ocean, the too-white tips of the waves; I saw myself swimming beneath the rocks and craggy coral with only one long, deep breath, felt a soft-finned dolphin rubbing against my thigh. But I didn't find it unusual enough to mention, since I'd had the dream twice beforeboth times marking some girlish passage. I shook my head no.

"Never you mind," she said, a cigarette balanced on her bottom lip. "You will Know best."

I suppose it would seem to any ordinary person that Knowing would make the women in our family rich or smart or at the very least well respected; but the truth is the Knowing hasn't given us anything extra. It seems, in fact, to have created a curse. All the Ivy women lean towards making bad decisions, especially when it comes to money and men. And just as we have accepted the ways we all Know, we also have accepted each other's poor choices in husbands and fathers for our children.

Daddy left when me and Liddy turned seven. Grandma came in the kitchen talking about the windstorm that was coming up while Liddy and Mama and me sat around the table watching the candles burn into the cake.

"JayDee left," Mama said, the words all square and neat. Then she blew out our candles. All fourteen of them in one quick, heavy breath. Liddy looked into her hands like she should have known, mad that she hadn't blown first. I just stuck my fingers into the side of the cake and pulled out the thickest pink rose.

I still remember the sweetness of the icing as it slid down my throat, and my mama's one lone tear snaking down her face.

"He ain't worth your water, Bertie," Grandma said as she reached into her pocket and pulled out a handkerchief Handing it over, she added, "He had bad blood."

coral with only one long, deep breath, felt a soft-finned dolphin rubbing against my thigh. But I didn't find it unusual enough to mention, since I'd had the dream twice beforeboth times marking some girlish passage. I shook my head no.

"Never you mind," she said, a cigarette balanced on her bottom lip. "You will Know best."

I suppose it would seem to any ordinary person that Knowing would make the women in our family rich or smart or at the very least well respected; but the truth is the Knowing hasn't given us anything extra. It seems, in fact, to have created a curse. All the Ivy women lean towards making bad decisions, especially when it comes to money and men. And just as we have accepted the ways we all Know, we also have accepted each other's poor choices in husbands and fathers for our children.

Daddy left when me and Liddy turned seven. Grandma came in the kitchen talking about the windstorm that was coming up while Liddy and Mama and me sat around the table watching the candles burn into the cake.

"JayDee left," Mama said, the words all square and neat. Then she blew out our candles. All fourteen of them in one quick, heavy breath. Liddy looked into her hands like she should have known, mad that she hadn't blown first. I just stuck my fingers into...The Things I Know Best
A Novel
. Copyright (c) by Lynne Hinton . Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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First Chapter

The Things I Know Best
A Novel

Chapter One

Tiny pieces of myself floated to the top glass, and I began to read my future in tea leaves. Mama and the preacher in the cabin by Sandy Creek, Liddy standing at the Trailways station near a bus going to Atlanta, Mr. Jenkins and the cut of his small, dark eyes, and some union of colors I don't yet recognize. Scrap by scrap, they all danced along the lip like memories in the wake of death. As they brooded and twitched, I stared down into my tomorrow wondering if I should drink from the cup or run to the sink and pour it out.

Reading hands is my sister's means of Knowing. Tiny crooked lines leading up and down, front to back, thumb to wrist, these are the roads she travels. Her fingers hot on your skin, she'll close her eyes, go all blind-looking, her lips counting marks, measuring curves and stops. She can give you the first letter of your lover's last name and open up the secrets of your heart. She's been touching palms since she was a little girl, understanding the life and death that people clutch in their fists in the name of love. By the time she turned nine, everybody in town knew she had the gift.

In spite of our recognizing it at such an early age, though, nobody treated her any more special than they did me. In our family, Knowing is a common sense; and even before I was sure like today that I had it, I knew stuff. All of the women have some form of it. Grandma Pinot interprets the sky, predicts weather patterns, upcoming anomalies, drought, that sort of thing.

Aunt Doris reads dreams and can tell a pregnant woman the sex of her unborn child. Great-grandmother Lodie could heal troublesome ailments and call out evil spirits from the sick and cursed. And her mother before her, Big Lucille, was known to associate with ghosts.

All of the Ivy women have a little something extra that causes the people in town to have a healthy suspicion of our family. So the fact that I now see snatches of another day's events in my afternoon drink isn't frightening or alien; it merely establishes my gift in the parade of women who birthed me and brought me up.

Aunt Doris asked me when I was thirteen and had just started my period if I'd had any special dreams on the night before I'd seen blood. I thought back to what I'd dreamed: I remembered the softness of the ocean, the too-white tips of the waves; I saw myself swimming beneath the rocks and craggy coral with only one long, deep breath, felt a soft-finned dolphin rubbing against my thigh. But I didn't find it unusual enough to mention, since I'd had the dream twice beforeboth times marking some girlish passage. I shook my head no.

"Never you mind," she said, a cigarette balanced on her bottom lip. "You will Know best."

I suppose it would seem to any ordinary person that Knowing would make the women in our family rich or smart or at the very least well respected; but the truth is the Knowing hasn't given us anything extra. It seems, in fact, to have created a curse. All the Ivy women lean towards making bad decisions, especially when it comes to money and men. And just as we have accepted the ways we all Know, we also have accepted each other's poor choices in husbands and fathers for our children.

Daddy left when me and Liddy turned seven. Grandma came in the kitchen talking about the windstorm that was coming up while Liddy and Mama and me sat around the table watching the candles burn into the cake.

"JayDee left," Mama said, the words all square and neat. Then she blew out our candles. All fourteen of them in one quick, heavy breath. Liddy looked into her hands like she should have known, mad that she hadn't blown first. I just stuck my fingers into the side of the cake and pulled out the thickest pink rose.

I still remember the sweetness of the icing as it slid down my throat, and my mama's one lone tear snaking down her face.

"He ain't worth your water, Bertie," Grandma said as she reached into her pocket and pulled out a handkerchief Handing it over, she added, "He had bad blood."

coral with only one long, deep breath, felt a soft-finned dolphin rubbing against my thigh. But I didn't find it unusual enough to mention, since I'd had the dream twice beforeboth times marking some girlish passage. I shook my head no.

"Never you mind," she said, a cigarette balanced on her bottom lip. "You will Know best."

I suppose it would seem to any ordinary person that Knowing would make the women in our family rich or smart or at the very least well respected; but the truth is the Knowing hasn't given us anything extra. It seems, in fact, to have created a curse. All the Ivy women lean towards making bad decisions, especially when it comes to money and men. And just as we have accepted the ways we all Know, we also have accepted each other's poor choices in husbands and fathers for our children.

Daddy left when me and Liddy turned seven. Grandma came in the kitchen talking about the windstorm that was coming up while Liddy and Mama and me sat around the table watching the candles burn into the cake.

"JayDee left," Mama said, the words all square and neat. Then she blew out our candles. All fourteen of them in one quick, heavy breath. Liddy looked into her hands like she should have known, mad that she hadn't blown first. I just stuck my fingers into... The Things I Know Best
A Novel
. Copyright © by Lynne Hinton. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 9, 2002

    A great Start but rushing finish

    Start out great to be a sweet little-town story with the interesting and magical power from the Ivy women family. The story is sweet and warm;perfectly for summer reading. A bit rushing to the end for too many joining happnenings. Good vocabularies this author used.

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