Wildflowers: A Novelby Lyah Beth LeFlore
Twenty-three dollars and eleven cents–that’s all that thirty-five-year-old Chloe Davis Michaels has to her name after she is driven from her home and career as a jet-setting Hollywood publicist, desperate to protect her unborn child from her crazed newlywed husband. She thought she had it all. Now Chloe seeks refuge in her Midwestern hometown to “get prayed up” by the women in her family.
Chloe’s impromptu homecoming takes us into the world of eight African-American women who make up the Davis clan–three mothers and five daughters, including Chloe, who soon discovers that the secrets she’s been keeping about her own life don’t compare to the secrets the other women in her family have been hiding.
As the bonds of family are tested, the women call upon their strong faith and spiritual teachings of deceased family matriarchs, MaMaw and Muh, in order to weather the storm.
With rippling boldness and crackling prose, Wildflowers is a beautifully written novel that explores the richness and complexity of the love between mothers and daughters.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
"LeFlore's expressive prose captures the diverse and elegant perspectives of the soulfully satisfying Davis women who gather to help L.A PR whiz Chloe recover from the painful loss of her miscarriage and her brief, disastrous marriage to con man Gregory Robinson III. Chloe returns home to St. Louis to lick her wounds; waiting for her is her struggling artist mother, Joy Ann, and her sisters—Eve, who's dating a selfish boyfriend, and Fawn, who's supposedly happily married but is contemplating a torrid affair with her minister. Other women in the Davis estrogen tree have plenty of problems, too, from health issues (some grave) to more fun-of-the mill matters finding their way in life. LeFlore delivers an unmistakable message of solidarity, revealing how conflicts, when confronted together, provide solace and opportunity for growth."—Publisher's Weekly
"Tired of waiting 12 years for her true love to declare himself, 35-year-old Chloe Michaels succumbs to a whirlwind romance with another man. Within months, she knows she has made a mistake in marrying him but is too proud to admit it until a miscarriage and escalating violence drive her from L.A. and her successful business back home to St. Louis. In her hometown, she finds comfort, confusion, and tension among the strong-willed women of her family: her sisters, Eva and Fawn; her mother, Joy Ann; and her aunts, as well as the memories of family matriarchs. Old hurts, including color complexes, bubble to the surface, and old secrets are loosed as the visit uncovers a host of problems: cheating and being cheated, a cancer scare, failing careers, money woes, self doubts, troubled children. Each chapter is told through the perspective of a different woman, offering a spectrum of personalities and intertwined relationships as the women come to self-realization and an appreciation of their family ties."--Booklist
"A family of strong-willed African American women bands together to face some harsh realities.
Heartbroken and frightened after being abandoned by her mentally unstable husband of just a few months, Hollywood publicist Chloe Michaels heads to the one place she will always be welcome: her mother Joy Ann's small home in St. Louis. Staying with Joy Ann, a bohemian painter still struggling to get by, helps Chloe put her own problems in perspective.
Oldest sister Fawn leads the pampered life of a doctor's wife but inwardly lusts for her new pastor. Middle sister Eve is unhappily shacked up with the loutish Dale. Aunt Carol Jane is eating herself to death worrying about her daughter Ceci, a hard-partying single mom who displays no interest in dealing with her drug and alcohol habits. Billye Jean, Carol Jane and Joy Ann's sister, has a womanizing old coot of a husband and a middle-aged junkie son who lives on the streets. As Chloe tries to heal and plan a better future for herself, long-simmering family secrets bubble to the surface, bringing with them tensions and resentments going back decades. This leads to verbal fireworks, tragic losses, illegitimate babies and, eventually, prayers and forgiveness among the ladies. The men are for the most part weak-willed scoundrels, although Chloe meets a retired NBA player named Lance who shows some promise. LeFlore (Last Night a DJ Saved My Life, 2006, etc.) sometimes tries to do too much, and the many interconnected characters can be hard to keep track of, but this emotionally raw tale shows an authentic respect for female strength and black tradition.
Cathartic melodrama with some spiritual grounding." --Kirkus
"The 'perfect' life of a pregnant Chloe Davis Michaels changes when she flees Los Angeles to escape her violent husband. Follow Chloe's lessons on love and spirituality as she finds strength in her family of women."-- Uptown
"An intimate family portrait exploring the fierce love, powerful bond, and intricate tapestry of the lives of African American mothers and daughters. Lyah Beth LeFlore's simple, yet richly detailed writing, skillfully molds wisdom, humor, love, sadness, and triumph through a panorama of distinctive voices."
–Shelby Stone, Golden Globe and NAACP Image Award winning producer of Boycott, Lackawanna Blues, and Life Support
"Lyah Beth LeFlore uses words to paint a picture of struggle, love, and faith. After reading this book I called my mother, my sister, and told my wife I love her!"
–Reggie Rock Bythewood, screenwriter of Get On the Bus and co-writer of Notorious
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Read an Excerpt
A BIBLE AND A GUN
My hands were as steady as a surgeon's, precise and meticulous as I flipped out the chamber of my Ladysmith.
Sweat poured down my trembling body, soaking through my cotton nightgown and terry-cloth robe. I felt as though I had just walked through hell's fire, but had been yanked out by hand of the Lord and baptized in his blood all at once. I closed my eyes tightly, my thoughts battling the deafening throb, pounding between my ears. I could hear Mother's words, "Don't tell nobody everythin'. You gotta keep the devil guessin'!"
I'd owned this gun for almost three years and as many times as I'd practiced loading and unloading it I'd never actually shot the damn thing. I figured tonight is just as good as any to break it in. I grabbed a fistful of bullets from a small leather pouch, dumping them into a pile on the floor, and started to load them into the chamber one by one. My brain was running on fumes, but one thought was crystal clear: The devil has to go.
I know you shouldn't question God, but this is one of those times I gotta make an exception. What happened, God? Was this a test and I failed? I wonder, if a God-fearing person has to make a decision to do something drastic, in this case taking another's life to save two, does that still make it a sin? God, please forgive me, but there just ain't no more time to keep contemplating the what- ifs, whys, and how comes. I have to do this for my unborn child.
I was jolted by the sound of a wooden chair scraping across the tiled kitchen floor, quickly followed by the loud cracking sound of splintering wood and shattering glass. My heart raced as I slipped the last bullet into the chamber and snapped it closed.
"You owe me money and I want out of this marriage!" His menacing, rage-filled voice echoed through the entire house.
"Stop breaking my things!" I screamed, cupping one hand over my ear.
No weapon that forms against me shall prosper . . .
"Chloe!" Every time he called my name it sent a shock wave throughout my entire body. "Get the fuck out here now! Do you hear me?" He slammed the hall closet door shut. "I used to have a good life!" His shouts faded in and out as he walked from room to room. "You ruined my fuckin' life!"
His expensive Italian loafers made a series of quick dull thuds on the carpet as he barreled down the hallway toward the back bedroom, where I had sought safety.
Clop . . . Clop . . . Clop . . .
His steps stopped just on the other side of the door. He liked expensive things, shoes especially. I had grown sickened by how he made it a point daily to advertise how much he paid for each pair he owned. It was his idea to sell all my large pieces of furniture. He said we were going to start our lives fresh together. The first thing he convinced me to do was clear out the guest bedroom.
He turned the entire room into his personal dressing room. Shoes, some never worn, housed in fancy shoe boxes, stacked in alphabetical order according to designer, lined the walls. I had never met a man who owned more pairs of shoes than I did.
"Chloe!" he shouted as he furiously jiggled the doorknob. "I can't believe you locked the fuckin' door. Open the door!"
Bam! Bam! Bam! Bam!
His fist pounded against the door.
No weapon that forms against me shall prosper . . .
"Get away from my door!" I shouted. With one hand firmly gripping the gun and the other clenching my belly, I scooted across the floor, bracing my back against the base of the bed, and grabbed my bible off the nightstand shelf with my free hand and wedged it in my armpit.
"I fuckin' hate you!" Venom oozed from his words.
Bam! Bam! Bam! His fists sounded again. This time more forcefully, as if they were tearing through the door. "I wanna talk to you!"
Bam! Bam! Bam!
"You're crazy! What do you want? You don't bang on the door like a lunatic if all you want to do is talk," I firmly replied.
"Look, I just need to talk to you face-to-face." He leaned his head on the door, and let out a deep sigh. This time his voice was calmer and his words, more controlled.
"I'm not opening the door, but I'm listening," I said.
"Listen to me, you need to get an abortion," he said matter-of-factly.
"You are insane!" His shocking demand nearly knocked the wind out of my lungs.
"Don't you realize you and this fuckin' baby are ruining my life?" he exploded, pounding his fist on the door repeatedly, no longer able to contain his anger.
"Your mama should've gotten a damn abortion!" I was furious, releasing the safety on the gun, aiming it at the door. I tightened my sweaty grip on the handle and placed my finger on the trigger.
"I want my life back. Unlock the fucking door!" He kicked the door repeatedly like a madman.
"I'm calling the police!" I yelled, picking up the cordless phone and quickly dialing 911.
"911 operator, may I help you?"
"Yes, I'm in the middle of a domestic situation," I said in a strained whisper. My right hand was shaking. The gun felt like it was weighing my whole body down.
"Are you hurt, ma'am?"
"Well, no. I mean, not yet," I answered, slightly confused. "But I know he's going to hit me. He's kicking the door. Don't you hear him? I don't feel safe." I felt a sharp pain in my stomach. My forehead was sopping wet by now, and a salty mixture of tears and sweat trickled down my face, seeping between my lips. "Look, will this call be logged in?" I frantically asked.
"Yes, ma'am. What's your address, ma'am?"
"Get off the goddamn phone!" he taunted outside the door.
"I'm at 12669 Camarillo Drive!" I said, holding the receiver closer to my mouth. "The police are going to come!" I warned, covering the phone.
His fists slammed against the door. "You bitch!" he shouted, slamming his fists against the door once more, before storming off.
Clip! Clop! Clip! Clop! Clip! Clop! Clip! Clop!
His urgent footsteps were suddenly moving away from the bedroom door, back up the hallway. I heard the front door fly open, then quickly slam shut.
"Did you say you had or hadn't been hit?"
"Hadn't!" I snapped. "But he was in there breaking up all my things, and threatening me!"
"So you're just in an argument?" she asked in a condescending tone.
"Well, do you want us to send a unit out?"
She had taken my dilemma about as seriously as a hangnail. I sat, momentarily choked by silence, glancing down at my gun.
"Ma'am, do you want us to send a unit?" she asked again.
His SUV engine revved up, and the tires ripped across the driveway's asphalt.
"No, that's okay."
"Are you sure?"
"Positive," I said, hanging up, distraught and frustrated.
There was an eerie silence in the house. I was still holding the gun, but my hands weren't shaking anymore. I scanned the dimly lit bedroom, catching my reflection in the dresser mirror. I was no longer certain of anything, and I didn't even recognize myself. All the good times, girlfriend gatherings, barbecues, house parties, laughter, and joy were frozen. The stench of lies lingered in the air, and ugliness loomed in each room. It wasn't supposed to be like this.
My pastor, Reverend Ward, had blessed this house when I bought it four years ago. Mother even flew out here to anoint each room with sacred oil. She told me my ancestors' spirits would always watch over me. My home was supposed to be my little piece of peace, but now fear and pain covered these walls.
When I was a little girl, my mother told me I could be whatever I wanted to be. She also told me I'd grow up and meet a man who would love me like he loved his own mama. Daddy told me I was a princess, that I deserved the best. He never laid a hand on me or my sisters, and I'll be damned if a man not worthy to have air in his lungs is gonna do that now. Mother taught me how to pray good prayers just like her mother and hers before that, but I couldn't muster the words tonight.
God, just make this all go away.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
Meet the Author
LYAH BETH LEFLORE is the author of the Essence bestseller Last Night a DJ Saved My Life and the national bestseller I Got Your Back. She is a former television producer who has been profiled in the New York Times, Essence, Ebony, and Entertainment Weekly.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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This is the first book I have read by this author and I look forward to reading her other works. Chloe has to deal with a lot of heartbreak but with the help of her mother, sisters, aunts, and cousins she is able to recover. The character development keeps you interested in what is going to happen next. The woman are the main focus of this book and the men in their lives are a part of the background. These women love their children and keep secrets that may ruin their childrens lives.