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The Hotel Alleluia: A Novel

The Hotel Alleluia: A Novel

by Lucinda Roy

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From the critically acclaimed author of Lady Moses comes a beautifully written, passionate new novel about sisterhood, love, and identity set against the backdrop of an African country torn by revolution.

In The Hotel Alleluia, Lucinda Roy tells the story of two half sisters, one white and one black, who share the same mother. Separated at a young


From the critically acclaimed author of Lady Moses comes a beautifully written, passionate new novel about sisterhood, love, and identity set against the backdrop of an African country torn by revolution.

In The Hotel Alleluia, Lucinda Roy tells the story of two half sisters, one white and one black, who share the same mother. Separated at a young age, they grow up continents apart. Joan is raised in North Carolina and becomes an independent, successful businesswoman. Ursuline is left behind as an orphan in Africa, where she teaches art and English at a convent school and tries to decide if she has a vocation for the sisterhood.

Driven by their mother's death and the shadow of loneliness that haunts her own life, Joan departs for Africa to reclaim Ursuline. Soon after she finds her, the two sisters witness a tragedy that forces them to flee the country's growing civil unrest. In the process, Ursuline has no choice but to seek help from Joan's former lover, Gordon Delacroix, a Peace Corps director, and his troubled English friend, Jeremy Scott. The days they spend together in a quickly disintegrating nation will change each of them forever.

A path of events—emotional, powerful, an tragic—eventually takes the women back to the United States. Moving from a country plagued by violence and bloodshed to another almost overwhelming in its possibilities, the sisters are forced to question their beliefs and rediscover their faith in family and in each other.

An extraordinary, unforgettable book, The Hotel Alleluia is a story not just about racial identity but about the people and places that color our lives-shaping our shared history and ourseparate fates. With her second novel, Lucinda Roy proves again that she is one of the most talented and original new voices in African American fiction.

Author Biography:

Lucinda Roy is the author of Lady Moses. She is Alumni Distinguished Professor of English at VirginiaTech. In 1995 she won the Eighth Mountain Poetry Prize for her collection of poems, The Humming Birds. She lives in Blacksburg,Virginia.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Familial, racial and political issues as well as character are Roy's concern in this resonant second novel, after the well-received Lady Moses. A successful software designer in North Carolina, Joan Plum discovers a Web site promoting African art and serendipitously spots a painting signed by Ursuline Shebar--a name she recognizes as that of her half-black half-sister, whom their mother abandoned in Africa years ago. With the help of her ex-lover, Gordon Delacroix, an African-American and one-time Peace Corps member who lives in war-torn West Africa and investigates corporate industrial pollution, Joan tracks down her sister, now residing in a convent compound in an unnamed country. After a particularly bloody assault by government rebels on the village marketplace, the nuns urge a hesitant Ursuline to return with Joan to the States as a scholarship art student. But as the sisters are on their way to the airport, Joan is kidnapped by government thugs who are seeking to keep Gordon's investigation under wraps. After several botched attempts, Joan's release is finally negotiated, but Joan's and Ursuline's relationship hits snags in the U.S. when a traumatized Joan blames Ursuline for not rescuing her sooner, as well as for engaging Delacroix's romantic interest. Meanwhile, Ursuline is alienated by the excess of comforts and luxury Americans take for granted, and bravely decides to return to her village convent after hearing reports that it has been marauded by government troops. As in Lady Moses, Roy's heroines try to make homes for themselves where they feel at peace, whether it seems the logical place for them to be or not. The beautifully sustained intensity of the narrative and a multiculturally varied and delightfully authentic supporting cast keep the reader's attention from the first chapter to the last. Agent, Jean Naggar. 5-city author tour. (Jan.) FYI: Roy's 1995 poetry collection won the Eighth Mountain Poetry Prize. Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
In a West African country torn by revolution and violence, Ursuline Shebar longs for a wondrous change, something to move her beyond the daily rounds of convent life. Change she gets, but the wonder comes hand-in-hand with pain and loss. An American half-sister she never knew appears ready to take Ursuline away from Africa and from a past filled with foster homes and loneliness to a new land and a new family. The offer, not entirely selfless, becomes more complicated after a kidnapping and rape. Ursuline has a new country and a chance to become an artist, but legacies of pain overshadow both her life and that of her white sister. For both redemption comes slowly, and only in reaching out to others can they recover what has been lost. Roy (Lady Moses) has once again created a lush and uneasy world where beauty and horror coexist and where love cannot be taken for granted. Recommended for all public libraries.--Jan Blodgett, Davidson Coll. Lib., NC Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
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Product dimensions:
5.02(w) x 7.94(h) x 0.93(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Life Drawing

In the beginning was the line'black, hesitant, inching its way across the plane. Then came shadow'the only thing which made light matter. Ursuline had to ignore the temptation to force an expression; if she had faith, it would emerge when she least expected it to. One moment a web of line and shadow, the next moment something recognizable.

Ursuline worked on the collarbone, then moved over to the shoulder, then down to the arm and the fingers. Long fingers. Pale and strong. The nails short and clean'perfect crescents.

The model posed awkwardly, like an inexperienced rider balanced on a horse, even though she was seated on an oversized leather sofa. The model's mouth was wide but not generous, and the nose had a small bump just below the bridge. Ursuline liked the strength in her subject's face. You had to take it as you found it or not at all. Deep inside the model's pupils, however, was the voice Ursuline had heard months before telling her that sometimes there was only anguish. There it was in the green eyes which held a mote of pure white light near their center, together with a reflection of the paned windows of the house.

Ursuline wanted to move on to charcoal and canvas, once her fingers had a notion of the way the body formed itself. Then, if she was lucky, she'd be able to use color to place the model within the context of the space around her. Paint could make things happen if you let it.

The model spoke:

"I need a cigarette."

The fair-haired woman got up, walked over to the table, and grabbed a pack of Benson and Hedges. Ursuline watched her haunches as she moved. Theyreminded her of the rumps of horses. The model was beautiful. Ursuline almost said as much, then thought better of it.

"May I see?"

And the woman was there in her face before Ursuline could object, staring at the scribbles on the large drawing pad and blowing smoke into the air between them. Ursuline held her breath.

"I look like her," the model said.

"I don't think...I mean, it doesn't seem to me as if'"

"I look like death," the woman said. "A cross between death and a Muppet. Those eyebrows! I pluck mine, for God's sake!"

"I know. I wanted to show'"

"It's nothing like me, you know that, don't you? As long as you know that..."

"Would you like me to stop now? I'm slower than I thought I would be. We could stop for a while."

"No," the model said, bending down to stub out her cigarette'her breasts, unhampered by clothes, following the sway of her movements. "We should finish what we started. Unless you're tired..."

"No. I'm fine."

The model returned to the sofa and sat down in a completely different pose.

Then she looked at Ursuline. "I think this will work better. I look like I'm riding a damn horse."

They both laughed.

And there it was'the expression Ursuline had been waiting for, the one which lies in the wake of a woman's laughter in a place she is accustomed to keeping to herself. In an instant, the face hardened again, and Ursuline knew that there would be no capturing that expression after all.The model looked out of the window and began to talk. Her mouth said so many things that Ursuline couldn't put all the words back inside and close it up again.

A few minutes later the model leaped up from the sofa. "What are you doing?" she cried.

"It wasn't working," Ursuline said, standing up so abruptly that her forehead grazed the model's chin.

"Give me those," the model urged.

But Ursuline kept cutting the paper with the scissors as if she hadn't heard her. Then she snatched up her pencils and drawing tablet and rushed out.The breeze from the door lifted the pieces of paper from the Berber rug where they lay in a circle around Ursuline's stool and scattered them around the room. The scissors glinted on the coffee table. The model caught sight of her eye as it shot under the sofa, her thigh as it hugged the leg of the sideboard. The Cupid's bow in her lip mashed against the base of the lamp. What had seemed faintly amusing before suddenly disturbed her. She ran around the room trying to gather the ribbons of paper before they got away from her altogether. She hadn't noticed the scissors before Ursuline used them. She usually noticed things like that. She could smell her own scent as she crouched down; she could see the coarse hair between her thighs. "Damn you," she muttered as she picked up a section of her midriff. "What the hell did you do that for? It was only a joke, for God's sake." She held her arms across her breasts as she lunged for the next piece of paper.

Just beyond the door Ursuline watched her own hands tremble. Sometimes it was only anguish. And all the lines and shadows in the created world weren't enough to tone it down.

At the back of the house the water-which-makes-no-sound blinked in the sun like a blank silver coin. The flat earth throbbed. Ursuline thought of the ocean and covered her ears with her hands.

The Hotel Alleluia. Copyright © by Lucinda Roy. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

LUCINDA ROY is an Alumni Distinguished Professor at Virginia Tech, where she has taught since 1985. Author of the novels Lady Moses and The Hotel Alleluia and two poetry collections, she is the recipient of numerous writing and teaching awards, including a statewide Outstanding Faculty Award in 2005. From 2002—2006, she served as chair of Virginia Tech’s Department of English.

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