What You Owe Me

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Sweeping across fifty years of family, friendship, betrayal, and reconciliation, this is Bebe Moore Campbell's most ambitious achievement yet.

What You Owe Me is a stunning account of the changes we have seen in white attitudes toward blacks, but it is also a sensitive look at what betrayal—of friendship, of love—does to us all.

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Sweeping across fifty years of family, friendship, betrayal, and reconciliation, this is Bebe Moore Campbell's most ambitious achievement yet.

What You Owe Me is a stunning account of the changes we have seen in white attitudes toward blacks, but it is also a sensitive look at what betrayal—of friendship, of love—does to us all.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
This extraordinary story of a failed partnership between an African-American woman and a Holocaust survivor defies pat summary. With plot surprises and insightful characterization, Campbell makes us rethink what we know about love, friendship, and healing.
Publishers Weekly
The friendship between a black woman and a new immigrant in 1940s California sets in motion events that span two generations in Campbell's (Singing in the Comeback Choir) densely plotted new novel. Hosanna Clark, a maid at an elegant Los Angeles hotel, befriends her new white co-worker Gilda Rosenstein, a Holocaust survivor whose family had owned a cosmetics factory. When Hosanna tries a special lotion Gilda has made, she persuades Gilda to produce it for Hosanna to sell to local black women. They are very successful, and at Gilda's suggestion they open a joint bank account. Not long after, Gilda and her new husband disappear with all their profits. Daughter Matriece, a witness to Hosanna's struggle to survive on her own, resolves to achieve the success her mother never had; she eventually becomes a division president in Gilda's cosmetics empire. Ignorant of Matriece's identity, Gilda mentors the young woman, with whom she feels an unexplained bond. Gilda's reaction, when she finally learns the truth, is unexpected, and she startles everyone with a surprising proposal that brings the story to a neat conclusion. Numerous subplots crowd the novel, covering issues from reparations and education to romance and betrayal. Campbell's detailed treatment of each accounts for the book's length, but all are credibly tied to the central tale. Character portraits are sometimes shallow, and the story's length tests the reader's stamina, but those with the patience to follow its intricate, entwined relationships will find the novel rewarding. (Aug. 6) Forecast: This wide-ranging effort is most reminiscent of Campbell's 1994 Brothers and Sisters and is positioned to perform just as strongly. First serialwent to Essence magazine, and the book has been chosen as a main selection of the Black Expression Book Club and as an alternate selection of BOMC, the Literary Guild, Doubleday Book Club and QPB. A major ad/promo campaign and a 27-city author tour will cover all conceivable bases. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Campbell (Brothers and Sisters) here tells the story of Hosanna Clark, a black maid in a Los Angeles hotel, and her surprising relationship with Gilda, a white Jewish migr e from Poland. Just after World War II, the women join forces to promote a hand lotion that Gilda makes, with Gilda managing the financial end of their newborn partnership and Hosanna hustling the product. But just as they quit their jobs to make cosmetics for black women full time, Gilda disappears, as does all the cash in their joint bank account. Gilda starts her own cosmetics company, which brings her both fame and fortune, and Hosanna passes her jealousy, anger, and thirst for revenge on to her daughter, Matriece. Matriece goes to work for Gilda after Hosannah dies, with unfocused plans for revenge, but the crisis is unexpectedly resolved, with a happy ending for everyone. Campbell freights her story with ethical and religious messages and abundant black/white and parent/child conflicts it cannot quite sustain. Though the characters are well drawn, they are stereotypical, and their dialog is thin and somewhat stilted. Not as convincing as her other works but still a good read; recommended for public libraries. Joanna Burkhardt, Coll. of Continuing Education Lib., Univ. of Rhode Island, Providence Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
An Imitation of Life saga of two cleaning ladies, one black, one white. Newly arrived in postwar Los Angeles from rural Texas, Hosanna Clark befriends Holocaust survivor Gilda Rosenstein. Both women toil for subsistence wages at a fleabag hotel, their friendship hampered by Gilda's limited English and Hosanna's suspicion of white people. Hosanna is impressed, however, by Gilda's fragile strength, and Gilda, drawn to Hosanna's hard-working cheerfulness. She concocts a special lotion for Hosanna's ashy skin, and Hosanna quickly realizes its potential. The women scrimp and save to bottle the lotion, which Hosanna peddles to friends and fellow churchgoers, eventually going door-to-door. Gilda handles the business side, opening a checking account and banking their profits. Hosanna is heartbroken when the account is cleaned out and Gilda disappears. But she provides for her daughters Matriece and Vonette before a flash-forward reveals that Hosanna has died, although she remains a beneficent ghostly presence to Matriece, an up-and-coming marketing executive at Gilda's million-dollar company, in charge of Brown Sugar, a new cosmetics line for black women. Gilda, now in her 70s, still feels guilt about Hosanna-and the bank account her first husband forced her to close. She doesn't know that Matriece is Hosanna's daughter, but she's impressed by the young woman's savvy and drive. Matriece, meantime, must choose between Montgomery, scion of a wealthy, influential black family, and Sam, a born-again ex-con who turns out to be the father of Asia Pace, a troubled young hip-hop diva who can't decide whether she wants to be the spokesmodel for Brown Sugar. Eventually, Hosanna's old friend and lover, abarbecue-restaurant entrepreneur, will uncover the facts behind Gilda's long-ago betrayal-and threaten-to reveal all. Another warmhearted, carefully crafted, if not especially original story from Campbell (Singing in the Comeback Choir, 1998, etc.). First serial to Essence; Black Expression Book Club main selection; Book-of-the Month Club/Literary Guild/Doubleday Book Club/Quality Paperback Book Club alternate selection; author tour
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780425227664
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 8/19/2009
  • Pages: 480
  • Sales rank: 389,539
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Bebe Moore Campbell was a bestselling author and a journalist. Her nonfiction work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Ms., Essence, Black Enterprise, Ebony, Working Mother, USA Weekend, and Adweek, among other publications. She was a regular contributor to National Public Radio.

Bebe Moore Campbell was the author of such national, critically acclaimed bestsellers as Brothers and Sisters, Singing in the Comeback Choir, Your Blues Ain't Like Mine, and What You Owe Me as well as the award-winning children’s book, Sometimes My Mommy Gets Angry and the recently published Stompin’ at the Savoy.

Campbell was born and grew up in Philadelphia and graduated from the University of Pittsburgh, where she earned a bachelor of science degree in elementary education. She taught elementary and middle school for five years. She is survived by her husband, Ellis Gordon, Jr., her daughter, the actress Maia Campbell, and a son, Ellis Gordon III.

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Read an Excerpt

What You Owe Me, Chapter One
Chapter One

I was looking at myself in a tarnished mirror taped to a crooked wall. I leaned my head left of the crack that split the glass and squinted my eyes to get a better view. Made me dizzy. My shift was about to start, and I was rushing to put on lipstick. The light in the room was so dim I could barely make out my mouth. The shade was too pale, but I made do and blotted on a piece of toilet paper. The door opened just as I was imagining my face with thinner lips. I turned around, and that's when I saw her, not big as a banty hen. Mr. Weinstock was right behind. "Hosanna," he said to me, "this is Gilda Rosenstein, and she'll be working with you. I want you to train her."

There were five of us women cleaning at the Braddock Hotel, all colored. It was right after Labor Day, and we'd finished having our get-started cup of coffee (as compared to our keep-going cup in the afternoon and our hold-on cup toward the end of our day) in a small dark room in the basement. The manager called it the Maids' Room because we were the only ones who used it. We called it Our Room; we did everything in there: change our clothes; drink coffee; eat lunch; smoke cigarettes; steal a quick nap or a drink. Every once in a while somebody would sneak in a man. It was a gray room with peeling paint and furniture that looked as though it needed mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Our lifeline was a little secondhand phonograph and a few old seventy-eights. Billy Eckstine, Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie, and Louis Jordan resurrected us around the clock. It's been more than fifty years, and I'll bet that all of us, the living and the dead, can recall just what we were doing when we looked at Gilda dressed in that uniform. It wasn't every day we saw a white woman wearing what we wore, doing what we did. Gilda was the first, and I remember her in this life I'm living and the one I left behind.

Death isn't like I thought it would be. The Baptist church stamped me early, and I was halfway expecting pearly gates, winged angels playing on their harps, St. Peter at the door, the works. Turned out that heaven ain't nothing but a space in my mind, no more permanent than a sunshiny day; I go in and out. The background music is whatever song I'm humming. Me, I'm partial to Tina Turner. White's not the only color people wear. Heaven is a great big be-in, where everybody comes as they are. Pajamas. Wild-looking hair. Mink coats. No makeup. Blond wigs. The be-in is right inside you. I think of it as the Land of Calm, a place to reflect, without alarms going off, telling me it's time to do this or that. The only thing that moves me here is spirit.

I'm in heaven now observing my baby girl, Matriece. I say baby, but my child is thirty-eight years old. She can't see me hovering in her bathroom, watching her comb her hair and get ready to go to work. She smiles at herself in the mirror as she gives her hair a final pat. The smile is the good part. My child liking what she sees reflected back at her is the good part. I fought for that, not just for her and her big sister, Vonette, but for all the sisters with hair that didn't ride their shoulders, with flaring nostrils that welcomed air, and lips that came with a pucker. I helped convince them that they were beautiful, unchained their minds every bit as much as Malcolm X did. Now a pretty black girl can do a Mona Lisa on a billboard and sell America a beer or a lawn mower. Pick up a magazine, and there we are, smiling our cover girl smiles. Wasn't always that way. "Because we're already beautiful"—that was my motto back in the fifties when all colored women had were Red Fox stockings and face powder so light it made us disappear. All right, maybe I shouldn't compare myself with Malcolm X, but I made a contribution. I saw a need, and I filled it. I got rewards for that while I was on earth, but somebody owes me still. I'm not talking about a debt of gratitude; I'm talking about money.

Matriece will make things right. She's the steady one. Vonette is hardheaded, always was, always will be. Fifty million hair care products for black women, and she decides not to comb hers at all. Dreadlocks. That's just to make me turn over in my grave, so to speak. Vonette and I had issues while I was alive, and we still do. But my Matriece . . . She wants what I went to my grave wanting: retribution. And she's the only one who can get it for me.

She applies her lipstick last, after her hair is right and her clothes are on. Makeup ain't nothing but a promise: Use me and I'll get you your man, your romance, your passion, whatever you want. Put me under your eyes, and I'll take away the circles, all the pain, and everything will be new. The name is more important than the purpose. That's Red Drama on her mouth.

Me watching Matriece is heaven, but I can't stop my mind from shifting. I'm not the first one to go to her grave with nothing to leave behind but a fierce yearning. Bits of my life still float by, just like when I was dying. I shine the light on all the faces, all the memories that are with me in my sojourn. This is essential: not to drift or soften, never to forgive or give up. If I find my anger waning I can always renew it just by remembering.

None of the maids at Braddock had ever worked with a white person before. Work for them, now that's a different story. It was soon after the war, 1948, and the five of us had put Texas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana behind us. We'd all caught that long gray dog out to Los Angeles looking for better times, plus a man. Kissing frogs and scrubbing floors-that was our lives. We traded fields for toilets, dirt under our nails for ammonia on our hands. Still had to say yessir, yes ma'am. Still had to live all together like lepers on roped-off acres that other people fled from as soon as they saw us coming. Watts—a sprawled-out piece of land with tiny bungalows lined up on the widest streets I'd ever seen—that's what we claimed. Come Monday, we caught the first bus. Number 86 ran from Central straight up Crenshaw; the 72 came down Wilshire. Cruising past palm trees, I took in those skinny trunks as if they were men coming to court me. My eyes traveled slowly from the ground all the way to the top and then back down again to see if I'd missed any flaws, any beauty.

When Mr. Weinstock left the room nobody said anything for a long time. Hattie, the oldest in the group, rolled her eyes. I knew how she felt. One way or another, straight through or around the bend, most of the hard times in our lives had come from white folks. The other women—Winnie, Opal and Fern—looked at me like I was the one who should decide how we'd treat her.

All right then. I smiled, stuck out my hand, and she shook it. She was a washed-out little thing and real thin. Next to her I felt blown up and lit in neon, not that I was so big. I was average height and weight, not much up top, but I always had some hips on me. Her skin was so white I could see clear to her veins, almost to her heart. My skin was the color of pecans; nothing showed through. Frizzy brown hair touched her shoulders. I had thick rough hair that took a press and curl every two weeks. Gilda looked worn out; I had a baby face. Her teeth were brown, too, as though she hadn't brushed them in a long time. People used to always tell me I had pretty teeth, because they were big and white, so I guess that's why I noticed other people's smiles.

Gilda smelled like roses and didn't smile, but I managed to see that she needed to get to a dentist. She didn't speak much English—yes, no, please, say it again—and that caught my attention. The white folks I was used to were homegrown rattlers that damaged as they slithered. The thing that got me, got all of us I guess, was that she didn't seem to know that it was unusual for her to be working with us. She seemed unconscious with her eyes open, as though she had sleepwalked her way into Our Room. I believe if I'd poured ice-cold water on her she wouldn't have made a sound.

I could tell straight off that she wasn't used to cleaning up behind people. That's to say: She wasn't poor white trash. I came out of Inez, Texas, where PWT is a crop that doesn't need fertilizer; I knew it when I saw it. There was plenty of trash walking around Los Angeles, jug-eared, stringy-haired men and women out of Oklahoma and Dust Bowl territory, dandelions blown west during the Depression, trying to make a new start with only fourth-grade educations and their color to recommend them. Gilda was an orchid that somebody's boot had crushed.

She didn't seem to mind the job, even though that first day I had to tell her everything at least twice. When she did try to say a few things, I heard the accent, thick as sorghum, and I realized she didn't understand what I was saying. So, I slowed down.

The first month Gilda was really quiet. She did her work, drank her coffee, ate her lunch, and didn't talk to anybody other than me. "Hosanna, what is this? Hosanna, what I do?" All day long.

We were in Our Room not long after she came, and Sarah Vaughan was crooning on the record player. Gilda sat listening, as though she were trying to memorize a bird before it flew away. When the song finished, she turned to me; she was trembling, and there were tears in her eyes. "The music is so . . . It is medicine," she said.

—From What You Owe Me by Bebe Moore Campbell. (c) August 2001, G. P. Putnam's Sons, a division of Penguin Putnam, Inc., used by permission.

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Reading Group Guide


Los Angeles, l945: When Hosanna Clark, newly arrived from the farm fields of Texas, befriends Holocaust survivor Gilda Rosenstein, she opens the door to a new life for them both. Using Gilda's knowledge of cosmetics and Hosanna's energy and determination, they begin producing a line of lipsticks and lotions for black women. The two are more than partners: They are dear friends.

Then Gilda suddenly disappears, taking all the assets. Hosanna is doubly betrayed: financially ruined and emotionally bereft. When, years later, she passes away, her small cosmetics company dies with her. But Hosanna leaves behind a daughter steeped in her mother's pain: Matriece is as smart and driven as her mother and savvy enough to recognize that white firms are competing not only for black consumer dollars but for black professional talent as well. When Gilda's huge cosmetics conglomerate hires her to launch a line of black beauty products, Matriece takes on a mission to collect her mother's debt.

What You Owe Me is a stunning account of the changes we have seen in white attitudes toward blacks, but it is also a sensitive look at what betrayal—of friendship, of love—does to us all. Ultimately, it is a moving book about healing. AsEmerge magazine acknowledged, "Campbell's writings are a beacon of light, helping assuage the anger by tending our deepest wounds."


Bebe Moore Campbell is a bestselling author and a journalist. Her nonfiction work has appeared inThe New York Times, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Ms., Essence, Black Enterprise,Ebony, Working Mother, USA Weekend, and Adweek, among other publications. She is also a regular contributor to National Public Radio.

Bebe Moore Campbell is the author of Brothers and Sisters, Singing in the Comeback Choir, Your Blues Ain't Like Mine, and What You Owe Me.

Campbell was born and grew up in Philadelphia and graduated from the University of Pittsburgh, where she earned a bachelor of science degree in elementary education. She taught elementary and middle school for five years. She now lives in Los Angeles with her husband, Ellis Gordon, Jr., her daughter, the actress Maia Campbell, and a son, Ellis Gordon III.


  • What You Owe Me opens with the long-since passed away Hosanna proclaiming her unabated anger toward Gilda. She is "depending on Matriece to make things right." Is it unreasonable for Hosanna to use Matriece to settle her score with Gilda?
  • Gilda and Hosanna have both been discriminated against because of race. Aside from ethnicity, how are they different? How does race work for Gilda and Hosanna, respectively?
  • How does Mooney make Hosanna aware of her beauty? What else does she learn from Mooney that she uses later in life?
  • In the beginning of the novel, Montgomery tells Matriece that he is content with what his father has bestowed upon him. How does his attitude change by the end of the novel? What are the catalysts for this change?
  • Staying true to one's roots is a concern that haunts the characters of What You Owe Me. How does this issue inform the relationship between Asia and Matriece? What role does race play in Matriece and Blair's friendship? How does it divide the two?
  • Guilt is an important theme in the novel. How is the "survivor's guilt" that haunts Gilda similar to the guilt that causes Matriece to have visions of her mother?
  • Gilda is not the only character dealing with the legacy of the past. How does Sam attempt to forge a new life for himself after prison? Were you surprised when his relation to Asia was revealed? Does their new relationship suggest the possibility for reconciliation between Matriece and Gilda, and as a result, Hosanna and Gilda?
  • What You Owe Me brings up some interesting points about the definition of success. For example, Blair has a huge house but a dysfunctional family inhabits it, Matriece runs a company at 38 but is perpetually single, and Vonette has nurtured a tight-knit family but lacks professional accomplishment. Is any one of these women more successful than another? Why or why not?
  • Given Blair's close personal connection to Tavares's family, do you find it surprising that she would let Tavares get punished for false drug charges just to protect her own obviously guilty son? Is it wrong of her to put family over friends in this way? Do you think Bebe Moore Campbell implies that for whites, the integrity of the family unit takes precedence over cross-racial friendships? Or does this thesis crumble when Blair and Matriece eventually make amends?
  • Gilda and Hosanna know about the power of a positive self-image. To what extent do they believe that women who feel beautiful will be happier people? How does the evolution of Brown Sugar coincide with an evolution in the way blacks are seen by both whites and blacks? Why is it revolutionary for Hosanna to set out to show black women that they are beautiful according to their own standards?
  • Do you think that by selling the company to Matriece, Gilda finally settled her debt to Hosanna?
  • Ubiquitous in What You Owe Me are characters who resent their fathers for being absent in their formative years. How does this issue transcend race? How do the characters involved reconcile their differences with their fathers?
  • In addition to the image of blacks changing over the course of the novel, they have also moved from the blue-collar workers to the growing middle class. Using Matriece and Hosanna as examples, discuss how in the past 50 years, a rising number of blacks have transformed from members of the working class into an economic force to be catered to and sought out as employees.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 23 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 23 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 18, 2005

    Corporate Revenge

    Los Angeles in 1948 marks a crossroads for both Hosanna Clark and Gilda Rosenstein. Both are running from violent pasts. Hosanna from the vicious mob that raped her sister and stole her family¿s farm and Gilda from the death camps of Nazi Germany. Tapping their resilient inner strength, the two women manage to start a small cosmetics company catering to women of color. But their success doesn¿t last long because one day Gilda simply disappears taking all of the small company¿s assets with her. Gilda¿s defection plants a bitter seed of retribution inside Hosanna that lives even beyond the grave and continues to grow inside her youngest daughter, Matriece. Gilda has resurfaced many years later and heads one of the most successful cosmetics companies in the world. Now it¿s time for Matriece to collect her dead mother¿s due. Bebe Moore Campbell skillfully revisits a period when black people were migrating to Los Angeles with little more than dreams. It is a story that spans fifty years and all the poignant drama of three dynamic women, their friends, children and lovers. It is tantalizing, edgy, and sexy at times; sure to keep you turning the pages to discover who comes out on top in this corporate drama.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 5, 2004

    Way too long; too many unimportant characters

    I loved Ms. Campbell's earlier books but was disappointed with this one. It started off good but then sizzled in the middle and was a predictable dud at the end. Too many peripheral characters with too many unrelated issues; characters like Judd, Blair and Porter brought nothing to the story. The whole absent father thing was overplayed--everybody in the book had 'my father wasn't there for me' issues. Some of the characters were interesting though--my favorites were Hosanna, Mooney and Sam. I also enjoyed reading about black life in LA in the late 40's. I loved Hosanna's spirit and determination to make her dreams come true.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 1, 2003

    We enjoyed this book!

    Pages¿ book selection for the month of March was Bebe Moore Campbell¿s What You Owe Me. In this novel, she takes a deep look into the lives of characters connected through career and friendship. Ms. Campbell invites the reader to look honestly at relationships and offers an open portrayal of life issues that transcend time, gender and race. The book considers the similarities and differences among racial groups as they confront racism and the demons of their past. Members of the Pages Readers Group found this book to be intriguing although a bit slow at times. Overall Bebe Moore Campbell¿s ability to detail the inner lives of her characters engages the readers and provides a thought provoking opportunity to explore race relations, the definition of family and the true meaning of success.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 14, 2003

    An Entertaining Book That Won't Disappoint

    The concept of this book was original and realistic. Bravo for Bebe!! This is the first book I've read by Ms.Campbell; 'What You Owe Me' has inspired me to read her other works. If the characters in her other books are just as intelligent and engaging, I'll be a fan for life.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 17, 2002

    Quite long but pretty good

    I really enjoyed this one. It started off great and kept me interested with its storyline. Even though the middle is kind of slow, the ending makes it all worth it. I defenitly recommend this too anyone who loves to read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 18, 2002


    She didn't right a book with characters Ms. Campbell made them into people. A great book and a must read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 10, 2002

    the second time was the charm

    I called this book 'the second time was the charm' because I had to take it out of the library twice, and renew it twice, before I actually read it. It is the selection of my book club, 'Open Gates' at the Cumberland County Public Library in Fayetteville, NC for the month of August. I think it took me so long to read it because the size was intimidating--500+ pages! I think the last time I read a 500 page book, it was a textbook. It certainly wasn't a novel. Anyway, once I actually started to read it, I found it very enjoyable. Ms. Campbell seems to be dealing with a recurring theme of absent fathers. Fathers can be absent in many ways. They can be physically present, but uninvolved in their children's lives; they can be physically close, but emotionally distant; they can be weak or mighty role models, in their families and in the communities, but they definitely have an impact. I do think she could have trimmed this book but a couple of hundred pages. I think it is a good 'summer read'; a good beach book, vacation book, or airport book if you are traveling. I was glad I had it with me when I got stuck on a plane for and spent four hours in what should have been a 1.5 hour trip! I also enjoyed reading it while soaking in a nice bubble bath, sitting on my backporch, and curling up in my recliner. I liked 'Singing in the Come Back Choir' better, but I still would recommend this book to others.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 4, 2002

    Healing the Past

    Hosanna Clark¿s family was cruelly displaced from land they owned but had not rights to in the segregated south. Subsequently she and her brother Tuney head for Los Angeles with dreams of a better life and hopes of getting back the land the family was robbed of. They believed that though their LA circumstances weren¿t the greatest they would both be successful at some point. Hosanna worked on an all black housekeeping staff at a major hotel. This mix changes with the arrival of Gilda Rosenstein, a holocaust survivor. Hosanna befriended this battered woman and that friendship became Hosanna¿s biggest source of joy. As friends, Hosanna taught Gilda how to smile again, dream about future possibilities and ease some of the pain of her past. Gilda made Hosanna realize that she was beautiful just the way she was. As unlikely as their friendship was their ensuing business partnership was as unlikely as a man on the moon at that time. Together they pursue an unlikely dream, to build a cosmetics business. Just as business was ready for further expansion, Gilda disappears leaving a trail of pain, disbelief and bitterness behind her. She left out of desperation but she also understood that her race would afford her privilege that Hosanna could not obtain. Though Gilda later becomes the successful owner of a multimillion dollar cosmetics firm, she couldn¿t stay married, didn¿t know her daughter, and was haunted by her family who was lost in the death camps and her dear friend Hosanna. Hosanna had a cosmetics business as well but did not enjoy near the success that Gilda had. Her thoughts and her heart were filled with bitterness for the business, the success Gilda stole from her. She married her childhood sweetheart and gave birth to two daughters Vonette and Matriece but loved another man. Hosanna made it her business to try and instill the bitterness she had for Gilda in her daughters. When Hosanna died, Matriece, her youngest, picked up baton and made it her business to get back what Gilda stole from her mother. What she finds out however was that Gilda was not a monster but a human being with feelings and needs. When the opportunity comes for her to ¿go for the kill¿ Matriece is left with a dilemma, should she see the plan through or come clean and how can she fulfill her mother¿s wishes when she was no longer sure they were her own. What You Owe Me addresses racism, friendship, betrayal, dreams, family and so much more. Moore Campbell skillfully addresses these issues in each character and is able to tie it all together in a way that is easy to follow for the reader which is a feat, considering the number of characters in the book. This is by far her best work to date.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 15, 2002

    Thank Goodness

    Ms. Bebe redeemed herself with this book. Before this the only book of hers I could stand was Brothers and Sisters. But this time she came out the corner fighting. This book is timeless and captivating. From page 1 to the end she catches you up in each of the characters lives an how they ae each influenced by Hosanna and her dreams. You have to read this book!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 29, 2002

    Exceptional story of Trust

    BeBe's display of trust and what happens when that trust is abused is extraordinary. The differences and the similarities in the characters is breathtaking. I truly can see a sequel and would love to see this book on film one day soon!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 28, 2001



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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 27, 2001

    This book is a MUST READ!!

    I truly enjoyed this story and the complexities of each of the major characters. The tragedy and triumphs of Hosanna and her descendants held me to the end of the story. I was held to rapt attention throughout the history and development of the legacies of Hosanna, Gilda, and Mr. Mooney. A wonderful characterization of determination, ambition, drive,complex family and love relationships.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 28, 2001

    A must have for your personal libarary!!!

    I must admit I had been quite dissapointed with some previous books by BeBe however this novel was great, a must have I am glad I decided to purchase it. I can obviously tell the writing of this book took some hard work and dedication just connecting the pasts and presents were a facination.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 5, 2001

    A great book!!!!

    I have to admit I was quite disappointed with Ms. Moore's Singing in the Comback Choir and was relucant to purchase her new book but I must say I was VERY pleased. This is a must read!! Although it is a THICK book every page will keep you wanting more.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 6, 2001

    She's Back!!

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading this new sensation by Mrs Bebe. I enjoyed the evolution of the characters. Since I did not enjoy 'Singing in the Comeback Choir' I was a little skeptical about getting this book but I must say I am glad I did. Mrs. Bebe, in my opinion, is back.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 3, 2001

    Book Lover , E. Lee, a traveling physical therapist...

    Congratulations to Ms. Bebe Moore Campbell on giving us, the readers, a wonderful book that is HARD to put down once you start reading it! It's an intriguing story about 2 friends, and how their friendship shapes their own lives as well as their future generations. I felt as if I was pulled into a story of a history of a people (my people...as I am an African American) as well as a story of a Holocaust survivor. After reading this novel, I felt both refreshed and encouraged. This novel reinforces the fact that we, as human beings, have the tremendous power to Love as well as to forgive each other. And...in this day and age....we need to do a lot more of each. This concept was brought to life in both Matriece and Rachel.....the daughters of the original 'friends'...Hosanna and Gilda. I urge everyone who enjoys an excellent book to read this novel, you won't be disappointed.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 21, 2001

    An excellent read

    An oustanding tale of friendship gone wrong due to cultural expectations and social mores. Bebe Moore Campbell does an excellent job connecting relationships from the past to present and those of friends and foes alike. This is a must read for anyone who enjoys fiction. If you are not a Bebe Moore Campbell fan you will be after reading this!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 26, 2001


    I've just read What You Owe Me. I Loved it. I Have Read All Your Books. I can't wait for the next one to come out. I read What You Owe Me in One Week. I couldn't believe it. I work 4 days a week as an ICU-Trauma Nurse 12 hour shifts. Our patient ratio is 1-1 or 2-1. This week I had one patient that was comatose so all I did was sit and read, write down vital signs every hour and turn the patient every 2 hours. On my days off I read and read and read. I neglected everything to read that book because it HAD ME! I could not put it down. I felt so proud for Matreice. I fely like she was my daughter. I know Hosanna can rest in peace now knowing that her baby girl came through. God Bless You BEASIA

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 11, 2001

    Loved it

    I loved this book. Bebe Moore Campbell is a great story teller. Campbell intertwines the lives of many well-developed characters from different backgrounds making for a satisfying story about forgiveness, facing your past, and letting go of grudges. I highly recommend this as well as one of her earlier works, Your Blues Ain't Like Mine.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 29, 2001

    True to the Human Spirit

    I was scared to buy this book, because of her last book I read Brother's and Sister. I couldn't get into it. I only got to the second chapter and I had to put it down. But this one 'What You Owe Me' I couldn't stop reading. I read it in two days. It had everything. Revenge, for giveness, and grudges. And about race. Between black and white. and About family It reminded me a little about my friendship with my bestfriend. She a jew and I am black. Even though she thousands of miles away and Even though she gets on my nerves. I still learn from her and she learns from me.

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