Lavina by Mary Marcus
ISBN: 9781611882018 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781611882025 (ebook)
ASIN: B00THMCG4U (Kindle edition)
Publisher: The Story Plant
Publication date: April 28, 2015
Mary Jacob grew up as an anomaly. A child of Louisiana in the early sixties, she found little in common with most of the people in her community and in her household, and her best friend was Lavina, the black woman who cooked and cleaned for her family. Now, in the early nineties, Mary Jacob has escaped her history and established a fresh, if imperfect, life for herself in New York. But when she learns of her father’s critical illness, she needs to go back home. To a disapproving father and a spiteful sister. To a town decades out of alignment with Mary Jacob’s new world. To the memories of Billy Ray, Lavina’s son who grew up to be a musical legend whose star burned much too bright.
And to the echoes of a fateful day three decades earlier when three lives changed forever.
A decades-spanning story both intimate and enormous in scope, Lavina is a novel rich in humanity, sharp in its indictments, and stunning in its resolution.
Read an excerpt:
Me, I’m guessin’ I’m a haint. Don’ know another name for what I am. Ain’t no angel ’cause I don’ have wings. Anythin’ that happen since I die, weren’t like I thought it would be. Never seen my mother, the pearly gates of heaven, or the baby girl I lost ‘for I had Billy Ray. What I sees is what I lef behind.
A deep green summer in nineteen hundred and sixty three. Hot it were, but it were always hot hot in Louisiana in August. Some say you could fry chicken eggs on the cement. I died that summer, nearly every colored person in Murpheysfield come to my funeral. Coffin were shut, had to be. Tem at the church, they did everythin’ but call me Saint Lavina, her who died serving the Lord in the path for freedom. Why there was even a picture of me on the funeral program. Me in my best wig.
I sees two houses. My own, a rundown, no-count place I never finish payin’ on with a dirt-poor yard and a broken front step. When it rain, the front flood and when it don’, it just set there filled with red dirt and dust. Got too lazy to plant me any zinnias. Go inside and there’s that old bathtub a settin’ there in the kitchen and the hot water heater rustin’ in the corner where the spiders spin them threads. Spider webs on account of I didn’t spend near as much time in my own house as I did over at the Long’s. It’s a big ole white house on Fairfield with fourteen rooms I kept clean with my own hands and knees, lemon wax, and my purple feather duster.
I lef two chirrun behind, and them two I can see like it were yesterday. My own boy, golden brown and shinin’, comin’ soon on bein’ a man. A handsome man as you’d ever see. Little harmonica in his hand, he were born to play that thing, funny sound it make, touch you way down in your toes. He Billy Ray Davis, born at the Confederate Charity Hospital, middle of the night in November. Next day I took him home ’cause they needs the bed and we was strong.
Now, my girl, she were white as an egg, born to a sickly woman what never take care a her. She start off growin’ like some old weed in the yard. I knows right away she stronger than any of them pretty flowers. She Mary Jacob and she settin’ at the kitchen table with her nose in some thick old book. She tappin’ on the black-and-white floor. Tat chile, she love to read. And when she read, she tap.
You can’t turn back the hands of time. Te seasons they come and go, no matter that you ain’t there no more to feel the hot of August and September turn into the cool of October. And you can’t feel November in your knee when November come. But you remember what your life was, and a lot of it were full of pain like your knee always was. Pain don’ hurt you when you die. Tat ole blackbird pain, he fly away. You ain’t happy when you is dead. But you ain’t so sad neither. Ain’t like living. One moment you is happy, then you turn around you is sad.
Tem that dies watchin’ over them that lives and that’s the truth. But that’s all we can do. Can’t reach out and give them two a shake and a talkin’ to, like I’d like to. Wouldn’t hear me if I did. Tat don’ mean I ain’t watchin’ to see what happen. I is always watchin’ . . . I is always watchin’.
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