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Love Tornado

Love Tornado

4.6 5
by Mable John, David Ritz

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Pastor Albertina Merci, the former blues singer turned minister, juggles rap, romance, family, and faith in the third book in this delightful series.

The unexpected arrival of fifteen-year-old rapper J Love hits Pastor Merci with the force of a whirlwind. When J’s mother is killed in a tragic bus accident, Albertina is named his legal guardian. The


Pastor Albertina Merci, the former blues singer turned minister, juggles rap, romance, family, and faith in the third book in this delightful series.

The unexpected arrival of fifteen-year-old rapper J Love hits Pastor Merci with the force of a whirlwind. When J’s mother is killed in a tragic bus accident, Albertina is named his legal guardian. The situation quickly complicates her budding romance with Mario, the owner of a thriving L.A. café.

As Albertina struggles to keep things on an even keel, J embarks on a dangerous journey of his own. Seduced by Bishop Henry Gold’s daughter Damitra, J abandons his career as a gospel rapper and joins the flashy, materialistic world of gangsta rap. Pastor Merci must draw on every ounce of faith she has to bring everyone’s voyage to a happy ending.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Pastor Albertina Merci is the ideal combination of spirituality and common sense. In Love Tornado she deals with a crisis of faith that is uncomfortably close to home.” – John Sayles, two-time Academy Award-nominated writer and director

"...The inimitable Pastor Albertina Merci...mixes spirituality with savvy in this Christian fiction offering. And there is plenty of sensuality to match the spirituality, as various love entanglements need straightening out by the doughty Albertina, whose own love, Mr. Mario, runs the Stay Out of the Kitchen Health Food Cafe. Albertina may stay out of the kitchen, but she doesn't stay out of much else. Humor, soul and inspiration is the recipe here." - the Hartford Courant

Praise for Sanctified Blues
"Sanctified Blues warms the heart and touches the soul. You're going to love this story." —B.B. King

Praise for Stay Out of the Kitchen!
"Together, John and Ritz have created a charming and soulful character in Albertina Merci..." —Black Issues Book Review

Product Details

Crown Publishing Group
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.80(d)

Read an Excerpt


"Albertina," my friend Justine asks me, "do you really think the Lord is sending you postcards?"

"It's just a figure of speech," I say, "but yes, I always feel Him communicating with me."

"Even here in Hawaii in June when everyone's running around practically naked?"

"Especially here in Hawaii where His natural wonders take my breath away. Everywhere I look, I see Him."

"Well, everywhere I look, I see hot men."

"You're a married woman now, Justine."

"Happily married woman," Justine adds. "But that don't mean I've gone blind. Like you say, this is a state of beautiful sights. And when it comes to beautiful men, I'm always in a state of excitement."

"Overexcitement," I'd say.

"Albertina," says Justine, "you've had your own excitement in that area. Why just last year, you had two mules kicking in your stall."

I can't help but laugh. In some sense Justine is right. Clifford Bloom and Mario Pani had both proposed marriage. But looking out at the gorgeous orange–red-pink-blue sunset from Justine's house high on a cliff in the Honolulu suburb of Kahala, all that drama feels like a lifetime ago. Clifford has moved to Dallas, and Mario understands that friendship, not marriage, is far more suitable to my lifestyle.

For now I can concentrate on the sunset and the sea.

For now I can soak up God's beauty.

"Do you mind if I pray?" I ask Justine.

"Lemme take another sip of this margarita," she replies. "That'll warm up my holy ghost."

"Father God," I say, ignoring Justine's last remark and taking her hand, "we thank You for this moment. We thank You for keeping us in this moment. We thank You for Your son and the miracle of His being in our hearts—His being our hearts—every moment of every day. We praise You and glorify You, God, for bringing us a mighty long way. What a wonder You are! You allow us to live lives that are forever changing, forever surprising. You allow us to grow and You allow us to know You more intimately, through our triumphs and through our struggles. They all bring us closer to You, Father God—the victories, the defeats, the pain, the joy—they all serve to remind us that You are our strength, our hope, our life. We see You in the sky, Father God, and we see You in the sea. We see You in each other's eyes. We see You when we close our eyes, when we sleep at night, and when we walk through the dark woods and walk on the sunlit beaches. We love how You stay with us, Father, how You whisper love in our ears, how You breathe us, bathe us in Your grace. We give You praise and we give You honor. We bow our heads and simply say, 'Thank You, thank You for this life, thank You for this moment.' In Jesus' precious name, Amen."

"Girlfriend," says Justine, "you sure do know how to pray. We should package those prayers and sell 'em at the mall."

My mind is still on the Lord.

"You listening to me, Albertina?" Justine asks.

"Baby," I say, "I hardly have a choice."

Just then Justine's husband arrives. Ken Kawika is a short, handsome brown-skinned man who speaks with an island accent and indulges his wife shamelessly. He's a successful singer who performs at many of the hotels on Waikiki Beach. This is his second marriage. He's thrilled to have found someone as lively and unpredictable as Justine.

Justine has found work as a merchandise manager at the local Wal-Mart, where the pace is several beats behind Los Angeles. Despite the fact that her new husband makes good money, Justine wants to remain independent. I give her credit for that.

Ken is cooking an exotic pork dish he learned from his mother, who had been the personal cook of the owner of a great pineapple plantation on the island. He sings an enchanting Hawaiian melody as he busies himself in the kitchen with the elaborate preparations.

"You gals let me know if you need anything," he offers. "I'll have the appetizers out in just a sec."

"You've struck gold with that man," I tell Justine.

"He's a sweetheart," says Justine. "And I love him dearly. But he does tire quickly."

I leave the last remark alone.

Fortunately Justine changes the topic. "I wish you were staying a few more days."

"I promised the church I'd be back for Sunday's service."

Justine raises her eyebrows. "Sounds like a blast," she says.

"These last three days with you have been beautiful," I tell her. "I couldn't have asked for a more restful vacation."

"If only we had found you a man . . ."

"I found what I was looking for a long time ago, baby," I say.

Justine cuts me off and says, "I'm going to find that reality show I was telling you about, Albertina. The one where five sex-crazed women get on an island to go after three men and battle it out for—"

"I could skip that one."

Justine turns on the set anyway and starts clicking the remote.

I suddenly see the face of my godson, J Love.

"Hold it there, Justine! That's my boy!"

"That rapper?"

"He's rapping for the Lord."

Justine accidentally hit on the Word Channel, the cable station that broadcasts preachers and gospel singers. J Love is up in front of the congregation of a megachurch and has the saints going crazy.

I see he's gotten taller. Last year when I saw J he must have been five foot six. Now he looks like he's shot up to five foot ten or eleven. At fifteen, he looks even younger. He has a baby face and sparkling dark-brown eyes. He's skinny as a pole and flashes his smile in a way that makes you love him. Plus he moves like quicksilver. Ever since he was a little boy he has been a brilliant dancer. He eyes the camera like it's his friend. There's not a shy bone in this boy's body.

"He's adorable," says Justine. "I'm just now realizing that's Shaleena Love's son, isn't it?"

"Sure enough is."

I knew Shaleena back when we were both Raelettes singing for Ray Charles. J is the spitting image of his beautiful mama.

Over a strong hip-hop beat, J is saying,

Ain't none but the One
And One's all you need…
Yo, it ain't about bling and
And it ain't about greed
The One is your Father
Who had but one Son
And the Son is the One
Who can't be undone
He done saved us from sin
And sacrificed His All
Now let's hear His Word
Let's hear His call
He say, "My yoke is easy
My burden is light,
Just do My Father's will
And do it right
It's all as easy as one, two, three
Believe in My Father
Believe in Me
And when Holy Ghost comes down
Well, that makes three
Say, it's all easy as one, two, three
Believe in My Father
Believe in Me
And when Holy Ghost comes down
Well, that makes three
Let the church say—
It's all easy as one, two, three
Believe in My Father
Believe in Me
And when Holy Ghost comes down
Well, that makes three.

"I love his outfit," says Justine. "Haven't seen blue velvet harem pants since the days of MC Hammer."

"J always wears flashy clothes," I say. "Ever since he was a little boy. Always loved those sparkly shirts and those fancy sneakers."

"What's the 'J' stand for?"

"Julius Jay. His father was Julius Jay Turner, the fight promoter. But Julius never married Shaleena and never wanted to be bothered with his son."

"Wasn't Julius Turner killed in a shoot-out in Detroit?"

"Ten years ago. A fighter he had exploited went crazy on him and put a bullet through his head. I thank God Shaleena brought the boy up in Memphis, far from his father."

"She still staying in Memphis?"

"Works there as the music director at a private school," I explain. "Shaleena has a master's degree in music from Michigan State. She's done a beautiful job developing J's career and raising that boy alone."

"Hey," says Justine, pointing at the television, "isn't that the preacher who tried to buy your church last year?"

Sure enough. Bishop Henry Gold is shaking J's hand. Turns out the concert was videotaped at Gold's megachurch in Dallas, Texas.

"The kid's on the big gospel circuit," says Justine. "Must be making some good money. You worried about the world corrupting him, Albertina?"

"Not at all, baby. Shaleena has taught him good values. He's using his talent for the Lord and he's reaching young people. I'm proud of him, Justine, I really am."

That night, after a delicious dinner, I retire to Ken and Justine's guest room. I read my Bible and stop at a line from Psalm Twenty-six where David says, "O Lord, I love the habitation of Your house / And the place where your glory dwells." I feel I am in a place where His glory dwells. The window is open. The ocean breeze is fresh, cool, delightful. I close my eyes and thank God for the blessings of this moment, for the gift of prayer and rest.

But my sleep is not restful.

I wake up in the middle of the night. I am shaking and covered in sweat. I realize something has happened. I begin to remember a dream, a terrifying nightmare. It is about Shaleena Love. I am sure I dreamt about her because I just saw her son on television. But why was the dream so disturbing? Why in this dream did I hear the agonized cry of children? Why did I see mangled bodies? Why did I imagine Shaleena with her face contorted, her body maimed and lifeless?


"Permit the children to come to me. That's what Jesus said," I tell the assembly of mourners. "They have come to Him. They are with Him. Our pain, our loss, our grief still overwhelm us. We remain numb, incredulous, devastated. But we know they are with Him. We do know that."

Never have I faced a more daunting task. I am in Memphis to minister to the parents of the eight children who were killed along with their teacher Shaleena Love.

I was awakened that night in Hawaii by Shaleena's spirit. Along with her students, she had experienced her transition that very night. They had been traveling by bus from Memphis to Nashville to perform for the governor of the state. Her choral group, consisting of eight ten-year-olds, had won recognition for their accomplishments. They had even recorded a CD of one of their concerts. That was the music being played under the words I spoke.

As I spoke, J sat next to me. He wasn't crying and he wasn't moving. His eyes stared out into space. His eyes were vacant. The boy was still in shock. When his mom's sister called me with the news, I immediately flew from Honolulu to Memphis, with a quick stopover in Chicago to meet J, who was in the middle of a tour with Kirk Franklin's gospel workshop. His aunt had called. But the woman, bless her heart, is a chronic drinker and drug user, and she was hysterical.

I assured J that indeed he was not alone. He was my godson. He was family, and he was not abandoned, not by any measure. At the same time I knew he felt abandoned—that, in fact, his mother had left this earth and there was no way now to make that awful fear and terrible pain go away. It wasn't the time to speak of our Heavenly Father who never abandons us. Those words would only ring hollow. So I held J in my arms and told him to let the feelings come and let the tears flow.

"I can't," he said.

And that's all he said.

Usually upbeat and always gregarious, J didn't say a word during the memorial service or the funeral. Though he is a religious rapper who is never at a loss for words, no words have passed from his mouth in two days. A kid who loves colorful, hip fashions from Japan, he has not worn anything but a black suit, a white shirt, and a plain black tie since we arrived in Memphis.

I have left him alone. I have done so because I realize that he has crawled into a space where, at least for now, he cannot be reached. He does not want to be reached. He does not want to deal with the excruciating confusion that has filled his head and is attacking his heart.

"I have lost a child myself," I tell the mourners, referring to my son Darryl, who was murdered in Oakland by a drug dealer. "When it happened, no human words could comfort me. No human being could comfort me. I sought silence, and it was only in silence that I was able to struggle with my faith. Yes, struggle. I asked God, Why? I wanted to know, had to know, couldn't live without answers. The grief cried out for explanation. But none came. All I heard the Lord say was, 'I am love.' 'I need more than love,' I complained. 'Love is everything,' came the answer. 'I can only be what I am. And I am love.' Still, I wasn't satisfied because the pain and the injustice only grew deeper. My desperation to get out of that state of depression grew deeper. I was lost in a sea of mourning. I wanted my child back—plain and simple. Nothing else mattered. If Christ brought back Lazarus, let Christ bring back my Darryl. Let Christ intervene on my behalf. Let Christ turn back the hands of time and give me my son. Let things be different. Let my child live! Please, dear God, why did You receive my son so early? Why didn't You let my child live?

"I cried myself to sleep for many months. I read my Bible. A few psalms and proverbs helped—but not much. Mourning is an agonizingly slow process. I tried to speed the process, but when I did, that only prolonged it. I sat with the pain. I felt it. I argued with God. I questioned. I fell back into despair. I woke up shaking with anger. I saw Darryl's demise in nightmare after nightmare. I went through whatever I went through.

"You will have to go through whatever you are going through. I can only stand before you as a grieving mother who still grieves. I can only say that I am here to affirm your right to question your faith and argue with your God. You do not need to deny your humanity. You do not need to pretend you are not feeling all the things you are feeling. God is great enough to absorb it all. He is the Great Listener and, I believe, through His divine listening, He is the Great Healer. But healing is not instantaneous and grief of this magnitude is not short-lived.

Meet the Author

MABLE JOHN was the first female recording artist for Motown, a former lead "Raelette" for Ray Charles, and a successful solo artist for Stax/Volt. She also appeared in the John Sayles movie The Honeydripper. Dr. John is now an ordained minister with a doctorate in counseling.

DAVID RITZ is the critically acclaimed author of the bestselling biography Divided Soul: The Life of Marvin Gaye and coauthor of the autobiographies of Smokey Robinson, Etta James, B. B. King, and Ray Charles.

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Love Tornado 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Anonymous 6 months ago
Great read
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Smiled back. "Hi!"
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I kno