Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
Delving again into the Philadelphia she claimed in her first two novels (Tumbling; Tempest Rising), McKinney-Whetstone gives a rhapsodic performance in this story of self-discovery that moves seamlessly between the early 1970s and early '90s. At its heart is Verdi, a woman fast approaching 40, who lives with Rowe, the older professor who saved her from a drug habit when she was an undergrad. Now the recently appointed principal at a school for special-needs children, Verdi is enjoying a relatively stable life when she learns that her first loveÄcharismatic and street-smart Johnson, the college flame who introduced Verdi to political activism and heroinÄis back in town. Running into Johnson unexpectedly at a cousin's birthday party, Verdi finds her feelings for him far from dead as they face each other and seem to sense "their blues dancing." But Verdi's attraction to Johnson, who's now an established fund-raiser, raises questions about her long-kicked habit and about her relationship with Rowe. Gracefully dovetailing with the love triangle are the equally complex and eloquent stories of Verdi's mother, aunt and, especially, her close-as-a-sister cousin Kitt. Pitch-perfect dialogue and a keen eye capture the spirit and cadences of the early '70s, when students were "booking" between Black Students League events and listening to the Stylistics on the record player. The author pegs the caring but comfy zeitgeist of the '90s as well. Verdi's evolution, from sheltered but curious daughter of a Southern preacher to drug-addicted student to stifled partner of an overprotective father figure, is all too credible. Flashbacks to the early days of the erstwhile lovers' relationship shimmer with the intoxication of first love, while their later encounters powerfully reveal their vulnerability to old desires. The novel's swift resolution may seem improbable, but even the tidiest wrap-up can't help but satisfy readers who have become passionately involved in the fates of these winning characters. Agent, Pam Bernstein. 11-city author tour. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review
A love story spanning 20 years, this novel, like the author's earlier ones (Tumbling and Tempest Rising), is set in Philadelphia. Despite a trite-sounding plotÄstar-crossed loversÄLJ's reviewer said the book had "real depth and emotion." (LJ 10/1/99) (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review
McKinney-Whetstone's third novel (Tempest Rising, 1998, etc.) examines a contemporary African-American community in Philadelphia, but her elementary plot and monochromatic characters don't leave much of an impression. Verdi is in her 40s, her past marked by a brief episode of heroin use in college during the 1970s. Flashbacks reveal that taking heroin was in part a dark spinoff of her wild love for Johnson, with whom she discovered the rapture of souls at age 19. After Verdi passed out in her own vomit in a campus men's room, her snooty history professor, Rowe, chivalrously took her home, where he and his wife, Penda, nursed her back to stability, kept up appearances for her family, and prevented her expulsion from school. Eventually, Rowe left Penda for Verdi, and they have lived in tense affection for several decades. Now Johnson's back in town, a drug-free fund-raiser for nonprofit organizations. He never did like Rowe, though he has to admit that his rival saved Verdi's life. But now that life seems a ho-hum round of scheduled pleasures, and when her cousin Kitt hooks up the former lovers, Verdi and Johnson's passion reignites. Is it peril or paradise? While Verdi's torn between gratitude to Rowe and desire for Johnson, her aunt Posie has a stroke. But Kitt's mute daughter, Sage, sees beautiful colors when Johnson and Verdi reconnect. Stressed out by the whole business, Verdi goes to the brink of doing heroin again, but Sage will rescue her from disaster. Aunt Posie is going to be fine, Rowe is revealed to be a soulless pretender, and Johnson and Verdi get it all back together. The author's fans will enjoy her extended scenes of domestic life and conflict, and will know enough not to expect the same sort of rapture that Verdi shares with Johnson.
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