Alternating chapters give us the point of views from the three sisters: Althea, Viola, and Lillian. They all seemed to be trying to find their way out of the past to get a fresh start. The characters are flawed, realistic, and compelling. Lots of obstacles stand in their way, as they come together to survive the latest trial that brings so much scrutiny and pressure to them all. They handle it in their own way—the past and the present. Themes of guilt, love and forgiveness made this a powerful, emotional story that had a profound sadness about it.
Recommend to fans of family drama. It had so much depth and I loved the way the characters grew together and individually throughout. The story was dark and real, but the author still found places to be funny at times. Hiding out here until my Sunday scaries are gone. Done reading? Leave your review below in the comments. There is so much to talk about with this book. Many topics are dealt with throughout this story, including prison, having a parent in prison, eating disorders, childhood abuse, overcoming your child, family sticking together, small town, being a strong woman, the guilt of motherhood, and so much more.
I was amazed at the depth of this story. The prose is poetic and will resonate with your soul. Each of the characters are dealing with their own issues, and each of the chapters is told from a different character's perspective. This really allows the reader to get to know each of the characters.
This is also one of those novels that make you think about different issues that plague our society, including prison system reform. I feel like this is going to be one of my top reads for And Mama told me, "You girls, us women, we're water. Strong stuff. It tells the story of three sisters: Althea, Lillian, and Viola.
Althea raised her two younger sisters, and when Althea and her husband both end up in prison, Lillian and Viola must come together to raise Althea's two daughters. Brave New World.
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Other great lists from our editors Science Fiction Books. Facebook Twitter Pinterest Email Print. Personalize your media recommendations. How old is your kid? Have an account? Sign in. Informizely customer feedback surveys. Baby Vi grabs on and folds herself around me. I wiggle an arm free to hang on to her, covering her ear like I can somehow keep everything out. Hugging her is like holding a scared, whimpering puppy just as the storm rolls in.
Because how much worse would she feel? After all, she was the one who called the police in the first place. I sit on the floor and rest my back against the bed. Glance down at my watch. Six thirty. Eva will be home from work any minute. No, this very minute. I catch myself squeezing and rubbing my fingers, nervously. A bad habit. I stop and slide my hands under my thighs.
She appears in the doorway. I note the ponytail, a desperate, rushed, stopgap styling measure. And there are the puffy eyes. Neither am I. She looks down at me, leans against the door frame, and crosses her arms. She glances around the room as if to be certain all traces of me were removed when I moved out. Her gaze rests on what used to be my dresser, which was uncluttered by ornamentation even before I left.
Her eyes return to me on the floor. The knife, sheathed. In the gaunt gorges of my cheeks? I get to my feet quickly and turn my face away. Nothing in this room does. I lower myself to the floor again. At the empty nightstand by what used to be my side of the bed.
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She sits on the floor beside me. Takes her pumps off and massages one of her high arches.
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She stretches, and I smell home: the faded flowers and vanilla of her perfume; sweat from teaching and student meetings and all the things a good academic does in a day. A good academic. A good, honest woman. I watched it—stop looking at me like that—I watched it on my laptop. With my car keys in my hand. Back home? Even with things, you know, the way they are. She closes her eyes and pinches the bridge of her nose. Typical exasperation. You look thin. I was going to drop it off at work for you.
How thin you are? I sit on the bed, suddenly too exhausted to care about the division of formerly joint-owned property. It got here yesterday. I trace the letters of my name and touch upon a memory. Did you know that? I nod, picturing Althea back then, when we were younger, with her Angela Davis afro, her bell-bottoms and butterfly clogs. And she would teach me new words, too. She taught me that word. Where would she have learned that? I was the word person.
I think sometimes she learned things she had no interest in, just for me. Practicing or talking or whatever. The last time I saw her, no, I mean the last time I argued with her, I told her as much. You have too many blind spots, Althea, I said, deeply upset. Actually, the last time I saw Althea was today, while I was sitting paralyzed on one of my moving boxes, watching that news report from a station up in Michigan on my laptop, feeling something in me give way. I look at Eva. I glance down at the letter, my throat tightening.
Althea got five. Proctor got seven. Lillian must be beside herself. I squeeze her hand and hold on for a moment. Then, I let go. I tuck my pile of mail under my arm and get up, looking again at our reading chairs by the window. Wanting nothing more than to sit in my chair while she sits in hers, both of us with a good book, like we used to.
Me, blocking out crimes and punishments and the misfortunes of orphans. Eva presses her fingers to her eyes, spent before we even begin. I know you better than just about anybody, yourself included right now. Check in. There are the chairs, together. The bed: my side, her side. My empty dresser. Our room in our dream home that we shared for three years.
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A condo downtown, after years of living in an actual house in the suburbs for most of those fifteen years. I head out the bedroom door and stop in the kitchen. I take my keys out of my pocket and look at them for a moment. I slip my house key off the ring and leave it on the cool, concrete countertop. You okay? So much for the hopes of first-time offenders. It brought me to my own knees inside. My man went for the beat-down with us, straight up.
I tried to write you the other day, right when I got back from sentencing. I was in my Darth Vader Space, all darkness and doom, writing crazy stuff. You know how I get. But I need to know, are you doing any better? I saw our friend up here today. He said he saw you and you were talking to him about his son and family like you usually do. He said you seemed okay. Is he right? Guess what I saw this morning? We were finally able to get out after all that rain, and you know me, I was chomping at the bit while some people were complaining about the damp and the cold and this and that.
I made it outside first and there it was, a deer standing out there past the fence on the edge of the woods. It was over on that end with the basketball courts.
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The deer was picking around in the brush, and there was sun coming down through the breaks in the clouds. It was the kind of thing you see on a postcard or something. Can you picture it? And before the rest of the guys came out and scared her off, that deer raised her head and looked at me across all that distance between the woods and where I was in the yard. What do they say? The better angels of your nature?
But enough of my philosophizing. I hope this finally makes you see that you need to let the girls come up and see you. But they need to see you. You got that now, right? Especially Kim. Did you read her letter I sent you? And I may as well go ahead and say this. I made my choices, and I can live with them. Before I close out, though, I wanted to tell you that that picture you sent was nice, so thank you for that. I have it taped up over my bunk. When I look at it, it reminds me of all the things that have survived through all this.
That tree was here before either one of us, and it stood right through the Great Flood. Remember that because that has to be us, right? And we made us two kids. Time for the hint. Here we go. Hint: First time, end of time, flack. You know this song, young girl. Questions for Discussion 1. How does this affect Baby Vi, and what does it mean for Kim, who is so at odds with her mother? Even in death, the presence of the Butler parents can be felt throughout the story. How do parental relationships affect each of the sisters and Joe?
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