Dead Above Ground

Dead Above Ground

by Jervey Tervalon


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Dead Above Ground by Jervey Tervalon

That was Mother's life back then: planning one daughter's wedding while plotting to kill her other daughter's lover.... For feisty young Lita Du Champ, New Orleans is a place dominated by her hardworking family — in particular, her strong-willed mother, Helen, who rules with an unshakable sense of propriety. Ever loyal to her mother, and adoring of her beautiful, restless, married sister Adele, Lita works hard to keep the family together as she attempts to establish her own life. But when Adele falls in love with Lucien Faure — a smooth operator with "the devil's good looks" and a decades-old score to settle with Helen — Lita unveils her mother's mysterious past to confront the Du Champs' long-buried secrets. Now, Lita finds she has one last and desperate chance to save the future of those she loves.

Award-winning author Jervey Tervalon draws from his own heritage — and the twisting family story that has lived and breathed inside him his whole life — to create a spellbindingly luminous novel of passion, murder, and vengeance.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780671034696
Publisher: Washington Square Press
Publication date: 01/02/2001
Pages: 240
Product dimensions: 5.54(w) x 8.46(h) x 0.63(d)

About the Author

Jervey Tervalon is the author of All the Trouble You Need, Understand This, and the Los Angeles Times bestseller Dead Above Ground. An award-winning poet, screenwriter, and dramatist, Jervey was born in New Orleans, raised in Los Angeles, and now lives in Altadena, California, with his wife and two daughters.

Read an Excerpt

From Chapter One

I remember the day we were out on the proch at the old house fanning ourselves, hoping for a breeze. Mother saw Adele coming home to visit in that red dress so tight I don't know how she could have breathed, but she looked beautiful and she knew it. That dress, nothing she sewed with her own hands, had to be from Maison Blanche, and that fancy hat with a feather in the band covering her head full of sandy brown curls took the cake. Mother didn't wait for Adele to reach the top step before she grabbed hold of her.

"My, my, this is a surprise," Mother said.

Adele kissed her and then me. "I got more time to myself since Rene is away."

"Where to this time?" Mother asked.

Adele shook her head and smiled that coy smile of hers.

"Ding Bang...Sam Pang...someplace."

"But he's sending his checks home to you," Mother said.

"Oh, yeah. He keeps me happy," Adele said, pinching my shoulder hard.

"You quit that."

"I got to keep my little sister in line." Adele pinched me again.

Mother cut her eyes, and I knew better than to get Adele back.

"You come and stay with us," Mother said. "Rene's going to sea for what, six months? Time enough to be alone in that house."

"Oh, don't you worry. I'm keeping busy," Adele smiled like she does when she's getting away with something big. "You know Lucien Fauré?"

"Lucien Fauré" The color washed right out of Mother's face.

Adele grinned.

"Are you crazy? Don't you know about that man!

"I know he's some good-looking."

"Adele, he's the devil. He kills women."

Adele laughed. Mother didn't.

"Lucien kills women? Mother, I don't know who you've been listening to."

"Don't be stupid. You don't know that man."

People always talked about all the Irish in Mother; how fair she looked and how when she got really mad she'd get almost as red as cooked crab. I guess since she was out of the house Adele could ignore that. She just kept laughing.

"Now, Lita, don't you think he's about the most handsome man you ever did see?"

I shrugged. If I said a word, I'd get the back of Mother's hand.

"Lucien's sweet as pie," Adele said, all innocent sounding, like she didn't know how angry she was making Mother.

Mother's hand flashed up, and I thought Adele was going to get slapped. Instead she flung the screen door open so hard it popped off its hinges and the door exploded shut behind it.

"Never saw her look so mad," Adele said.

I laughed. "Mother gets very mad."

"Maybe at you."

I thought Adele would just turn and walk down the steps and leave me to start dinner before Mother started shouting for me, but she lingered on the porch.

"She's wrong about Lucien?" I asked.

"She thinks she knows something about him, but those are just lies. He's so good to me."

"That's good," I said, but I couldn't help thinking about how right Mother was about everything except for Daddy.

"So when is she going to let you see somebody? You're seventeen." I sighed.

"Ain't nobody I want to see."

"Girl, don't lie. You scared of her."

"I see boys," I said, halfheartedly.

Adele was right and I didn't feel like admitting it,so I kept my mouth shut.

"Sometimes you Just have to do what you want. Can't always worry about every little thing," she said as she waved good-bye and headed up Gravier.

Maybe Adele was even more glamorous in my eyes because she could get away with so much. I never understood why Mother tolerated her fast life; now that Adele was set with a hardworking husband, so pretty and dressed so fine, some people called her Little Lena Horne. Made it too easy for a man to fall in love with her. Adele saw Rene coming, she batted her long lashes and landed him easily. The idiot thought he caught himself the belle of the ball, but he was the one getting skinned, cleaned, and hung out to dry. What she saw in him was a colored man with a white man's job. Rene was so fair he couldn't work as a negro, but he found himself a position on a merchant marine ship, and that was it. Adele had schemed to get those fat paychecks and those frequent trips where Rene would be out at sea and she'd be alone and not have to answer to anyone. Think she would have lived like a queen and made a few babies and spoiled herself rotten, but not Adele. Married, but with all that time and opportunity, she just chased men like a hungry dog looking for a bone.

Copyright © 2000 by Jervey Tervalon

Table of Contents

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

Los Angeles Times The city [of New Orleans] shimmers to life through the perfect pitch of the people who inhabit the tale.

The Times-Picayune (New Orleans) Tragic, violent, but ultimately transcendent, Dead Above Ground draws the reader in and never lets go.

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Dead Above Ground 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
altima313 on LibraryThing 4 days ago
This story of murder, love, and hate will not let you put the book down. You'll find out the family secrests and why Helen has a real hate for this man her daughter wants to run away with. And all threw this Lita is still working on keeping the family a strong unit. I admired Lita - she is a loving mother, caring wife, great daughter and cousin but also a no-nonsense type of girl that doesn't just sit around. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. I was very impressed with Jervey's writing style and how he played Lita and Helen against each other. Lita feared her mother, but she learned to stand her ground. She also handled her father very well. That relationship was very funny. It had the right mix of tragedy and reward, the plot was interesting, the characters were real. It kept my attention! This is a fine piece of literature, a novel of monumental characterizations. Mr. Tervalon's style just sweeps you up and gets you involved with the various characters. I look forward to reading his other novels.
bmamca36 More than 1 year ago
This book was really great from the first page to the last. The writing style was absolutely amazing. It told a story that kept your interest and portrayed remarkable characters. It was a story about love, family and with a taste of what life was like in New Orleans in the 1940's. Well worth reading.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is the best book I have every read. I love this book,I recommend this book to everyone. The excitement and suspense makes the charters come alive. It's funy and you become so emotionally rapped up into the charters you realize this could be your family. This book makes you laugh out loud and it enters the deepest side of heartache. When you realize your heartaches over a charter in a book 'What a Hit!! this was a great book. I read this book over a year ago and it feel like yesterday, I tell all my friends about it. I even bought my sister her own copy.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
The book/storyline/characters started out quite strong, but i was disappointed in all three by the end. Many of the interesting themes that the author brought out, he failed to develop. For example, how did a strong woman like Lita's mother, not just end up with, but be so in love with a guy like an abusive idiot like her father? Although, it surely happens in life, there is usually some explanation for it. Here, there was none, other than author's wimpy line through Mother about how sometimes life just doesn't work the way you think it will. Not good enough. Also, though Adele was a central character, she was sorely underdeveloped. In the beginnging she was basically presented as a man-chasing good-time girl. But later, she changed and though you saw it, you had no real idea why the change happened or whether it was genuine. 'Daddy' too, was rather one-dimensional, although we see a different side to him in 'Mother's flashback'. I just kept wondering what made these characters tick. It could have been a much richer story had the author attempted to portray his characters with greater depth. I did like, however, the evocative scenes of New Orleans and the life of the 'coloreds' there. I liked that the author was frank about how light-skinned blacks would, with varying degrees of confliction, use their ability to pass to suit their purpose. I don't really recommend the book, but it won't be a complete waste of time if you read it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book has a wonderful flow. I read it in two days. Dead Above Ground is genius work. The portrayal of the wild family drama was very true to life. All of the ladies out there that are hooked on good looks and smooth talking men will think twice when they read this book. Helen, Lita's mom was a strong woman who allowed herself to be mistreated by her husband. This banishes the stereotype of abused women, are only those that are helpless. I was happy to see that Lita broke the cycle of abuse. Although her husband's possessive ways could have gotten out of hand if it wasn't for her strong will.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Indeed love is blind. This is what happened to Ruby in Jervey's novel. Her love for Lucien was so blind that she didn't think of how much that would affect her daughter Adele in the future. This is one of the themes that I best enjoyed from this novel. I read this book in exactly 2 days. It was very easy to understand, this type of book is the kind that I would recommend anyone who just wants to read for their own personal enjoyment. Jervey is one of the authors that I admire for his desire to let other people come into his life to explore his roots in his writtings. Overall, good job Jervey!!!!