On the Rooftop: A Novel

On the Rooftop: A Novel

by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton

Narrated by Robin Miles

Unabridged — 10 hours, 29 minutes

On the Rooftop: A Novel

On the Rooftop: A Novel

by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton

Narrated by Robin Miles

Unabridged — 10 hours, 29 minutes

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Overview

A Reese's Book Club Pick

“An utterly original and brilliant story.” -Reese Witherspoon

A stunning novel about a mother whose dream of musical stardom for her three daughters collides with the daughters' ambitions for their own lives-set against the backdrop of gentrifying 1950s San Francisco

At home they are just sisters, but on stage, they are The Salvations. Ruth, Esther, and Chloe have been singing and dancing in harmony since they could speak. Thanks to the rigorous direction of their mother, Vivian, they've become a bona fide girl group whose shows are the talk of the Jazz-era Fillmore.

Now Vivian has scored a once-in-a-lifetime offer from a talent manager, who promises to catapult The Salvations into the national spotlight. Vivian knows this is the big break she's been praying for. But sometime between the hours of rehearsal on their rooftop and the weekly gigs at the Champagne Supper Club, the girls have become women, women with dreams that their mother cannot imagine.

The neighborhood is changing, too: all around the Fillmore, white men in suits are approaching Black property owners with offers. One sister finds herself called to fight back, one falls into the comfort of an old relationship, another yearns to make her own voice heard. And Vivian, who has always maintained control, will have to confront the parts of her life that threaten to splinter: the community, The Salvations, and even her family.

Warm, gripping, and wise, with echoes of Fiddler on the Roof, Margaret Wilkerson Sexton's latest novel is a moving family portrait from “a writer of uncommon nerve and talent” (New York Times Book Review).


Editorial Reviews

JANUARY 2023 - AudioFile

Robin Miles transports listeners to 1950s San Francisco to meet mother Vivian, who wants her children to be famous singers, and daughters Ruth, Esther, and Chloe, whose wants differ. Miles fully embodies Vivian as she talks about growing up in Louisiana, negotiates with a music manager, professes her love for the preacher, and reacts to Ruth's becoming pregnant, Esther’s missing an audition, and Chloe’s falling for the son of a white developer. Miles gives each daughter a unique vocal pitch and intonation that rise and fall with the action. Other notable characters include the owner of the supper club and the four men these women love. Verdict: a satisfying story of a Black family's struggle to survive and thrive on their terms. S.D.B. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2023, Portland, Maine

Publishers Weekly

07/11/2022

Sexton (The Revisioners) broadly reimagines The Fiddler on the Roof in an affecting family story set in a rapidly changing historically Black San Francisco neighborhood. It’s 1953, and people from all walks of life pack the Champagne Supper Club to see the latest jazz and R&B performers. On Fridays, they cheer the Salvations, hometown favorites made up of sisters Ruth, Esther, and Chloe Jones. Now in their early 20s, the sisters’ talents have been relentlessly forged during countless rooftop rehearsals run by their mother, Vivian, a widow whose hopes for her daughters all center on their musical superstardom. Just as Vivian’s dream seems within reach, though, her daughters yearn for independence, with Chloe eyeing a solo career and Esther wanting to join the civil rights movement. Meanwhile, white developers begin disrupting Vivian’s Black Fillmore neighbors— many of whom, like Vivian, fled racial violence in the deep South—with eminent domain proceedings. In alternating viewpoints, Sexton depicts the nuances of familial relationships, including the sisters’ combination of loyalty and jealousy, as well as the complex and changeable nature of regret. The historical milieu is less sharply drawn, with celebrity cameos too often standing in for concrete details of time and place. Nevertheless, Sexton brings undeniable power to her depiction of dreams fragmented and deferred. Agent: Michael Carlisle, InkWell Management. (Sept.)

From the Publisher

What happens when a mother’s well-intentioned aspirations for her offspring conflict with her daughter’s ever-changing vision of herself? In Margaret Wilkerson Sexton’s showstopper of a third novel, On the Rooftop, this theme is explored with compassion, clear-eyed perception and been-around-the-block delivery. And when placed within the context of racial segregation and prejudice in midcentury America, the results are soul-shaking…. A powerhouse novel.” — San Francisco Chronicle

On the Rooftop explores a subject close to my heart: the shifting terrain between mothers and daughters, further complicated by grief. Margaret Wilkerson Sexton's powerful prose takes us to some familiar emotional places within an utterly original story. This searing, intimate portrait of family, ambition, and community from a bygone era feels deeply resonant for those of us still daring to dream today. Beautiful, moving, and truly unforgettable!” — Deesha Philyaw, author of The Secret Lives of Church Ladies

"[On the Rooftop] beautifully captures the complicated emotions that arise when a parent realizes that what she wants for her kids doesn’t necessarily align with what they need." — Time

“An utterly original and brilliant story.” — Reese Witherspoon

“A powerful drama set during a pivotal moment in U.S. history.” — Real Simple

“I was not prepared for how this book would knock me over with its rich characterizations and intricate plot that handles major social issues such as racism and gentrification while telling an intimate story of a family in transition…this novel is written tenderly with language that sings as much as the music it describes. When faced with enormous change, these finely drawn characters face the universal struggle of whether to accept what life has thrown at them or to resist change and lose everything they've worked so hard to achieve. I couldn’t put it down.” — BuzzFeed 

“Irresistible.” — Los Angeles Times

“An expansive, big-hearted work of historical fiction about family, love and what happens when children grow up to chase dreams their parents never imagined for them.” — Good Housekeeping

“Sprightly, emotionally savvy…. As much as this is a story about the lives of Vivian and her daughters, it’s also a story about community—how groups serve as sources of support and liberation, too.”  — Alta Journal

On the Rooftop further cements Margaret Wilkerson Sexton as a deft chronicler of Blackness in America. A deeply felt, big hearted exploration of family, sisterhood and gentrification, this is the kind of expansive, lush novel that envelops with charm while provoking with its fierce intelligence.” — Kaitlyn Greenidge, author of Libertie

“A masterful examination of family and community that celebrates the legacy of Black dreams and determination…. Sexton’s work entertains and inspires at the same time, and with On the Rooftop, she urges us to find comfort in the triumphs of our past.” — BookPage

"Richly observed and beautifully written, On the Rooftop weaves the lives of its characters together into a story bursting with music and feeling. Margaret Wilkerson Sexton writes with power and nuance about matters of the spirit and the flesh. A moving, uplifting novel about art and ambition and faith and love." — Charles Yu, author of Interior Chinatown

“In all of her work, Margaret Wilkerson Sexton invites us into the most intimate spaces of remarkable families during remarkable times. In this stellar novel, she takes us deeply into the dynamics of mothers and daughters, their individual—and collective—dreams and struggles. The harmonies of The Salvations are the literal soul music of this neighborhood in San Francisco during the turbulent '50s and I will never look up at another rooftop again, without imagining three sisters reaching for their stars.”  — Luis Alberto Urrea, author of The House of Broken Angels

“Sexton does a wonderful job of capturing the complicated love that binds Vivian and her daughters. She also beautifully depicts the jealousies and rivalries that can tear once-close sisters apart. . . . A heartfelt tale of family and community.” — Kirkus Reviews

“Outstanding… Sexton creates the place and era, with its sights, tastes and sounds, and writes the feelings and thoughts the four women have versus their behavior with brilliant insight and perfect pitch.” — Historical Novel Society

Deesha Philyaw

On the Rooftop explores a subject close to my heart: the shifting terrain between mothers and daughters, further complicated by grief. Margaret Wilkerson Sexton's powerful prose takes us to some familiar emotional places within an utterly original story. This searing, intimate portrait of family, ambition, and community from a bygone era feels deeply resonant for those of us still daring to dream today. Beautiful, moving, and truly unforgettable!

Charles Yu

"Richly observed and beautifully written, On the Rooftop weaves the lives of its characters together into a story bursting with music and feeling. Margaret Wilkerson Sexton writes with power and nuance about matters of the spirit and the flesh. A moving, uplifting novel about art and ambition and faith and love."

Luis Alberto Urrea

In all of her work, Margaret Wilkerson Sexton invites us into the most intimate spaces of remarkable families during remarkable times. In this stellar novel, she takes us deeply into the dynamics of mothers and daughters, their individual—and collective—dreams and struggles. The harmonies of The Salvations are the literal soul music of this neighborhood in San Francisco during the turbulent '50s and I will never look up at another rooftop again, without imagining three sisters reaching for their stars.” 

Kaitlyn Greenidge

On the Rooftop further cements Margaret Wilkerson Sexton as a deft chronicler of Blackness in America. A deeply felt, big hearted exploration of family, sisterhood and gentrification, this is the kind of expansive, lush novel that envelops with charm while provoking with its fierce intelligence.

Library Journal

09/01/2022

In 1950s San Francisco, Vivian manages her daughters' musical group, the Salvations; but when they get a chance at a record deal, unexpected life situations threaten Vivian's dream of stardom. As the girls make decisions about their futures, including romance and marriage, Vivian's Black neighborhood is being gentrified, and she finds she has to deal with many changes. As the novel's perspective jumps between Vivian and her daughters Ruth, Esther, and Chloe, each character gets treated to a fully developed and satisfying arc, while the minor characters breathe life into the story of this neighborhood. Sexton's (The Revisioners) writing is expressive and lyrical, sometimes verbose and sometimes soaring, like her standout descriptions of nightclub scenes. There's a somewhat unbelievable moment when one music producer states that it's hard to find a girl group, but Sexton's third novel is, overall, a solid and realistic tale with hopeful undertones. VERDICT The themes of racism, family, and Black lives could make Sexton's latest a read-alike for the novels of Jacqueline Woodson. A good addition to any public library's fiction collection.—Sonia Reppe

JANUARY 2023 - AudioFile

Robin Miles transports listeners to 1950s San Francisco to meet mother Vivian, who wants her children to be famous singers, and daughters Ruth, Esther, and Chloe, whose wants differ. Miles fully embodies Vivian as she talks about growing up in Louisiana, negotiates with a music manager, professes her love for the preacher, and reacts to Ruth's becoming pregnant, Esther’s missing an audition, and Chloe’s falling for the son of a white developer. Miles gives each daughter a unique vocal pitch and intonation that rise and fall with the action. Other notable characters include the owner of the supper club and the four men these women love. Verdict: a satisfying story of a Black family's struggle to survive and thrive on their terms. S.D.B. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2023, Portland, Maine

Product Details

BN ID: 2940175960717
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 09/06/2022
Edition description: Unabridged
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