Berry (Redemption Road, 2000), inspirational speaker, sociologist, and former standup comedian, improves with each novel, this third being her most focused and well-organized.
Set in a village near Savannah, it takes a psychic turn while still couched in Berry’s familiar down-home idioms of unlavishly educated blacks: “I’ma tell you true, sometimes we so busy reacting to what we think people do to us, that we don’t ever think about what’s been done to them,” a quote that might be seen as the story’s pivotal theme of forgiveness and love. Louella Johnson, in her late 50s, and husband Jim, early 60s, find that Jim can’t get it up anymore. At best, he fades at the doorway. Louella has a dream about her mother and grandmother giving her lessons in sexual response and telling her how to rebuild Jim’s libido while cranking up her own, and afterward Jim and Louella have marathons doin’ the do. Even more remarkable, church-going Jim and Louella discover that they can now read minds and, in fact, converse with each other without talking aloud. Out shopping at the farmers’s market, Louella finds herself reading the minds of farmers and helping them with their husbandly problems, largely by asking them questions they already have the answers to but don’t realize it (the Socratic method). Jim, meanwhile, finds that a fellow worker wants to put his big lips on Jim’s Mrs. Jim, and their fame as seers spreads locally. Louella offers the village whore, Mae, who is about to be evicted, her son Naim’s apartment over their garage (psychologist Naim’s off getting degrees in mind-stuff). Uppity churchgoers (many of Mae’s former customers) rebel at Mae’s attending Sunday services. Then Mae learns she has a fatal cancer, but Jim’s long-lost brother John arrives to brighten her days. Meanwhile, a child molester, his mind known to Louella, is loose.
Berry’s breakthrough? Could be.