Berry’s fourth and perhaps breakthrough inspirational (Jim & Louella’s Homemade Heartfix Remedy, 2002, etc.), in tamped-down black English.
The narrative voice belongs to Aunt Babe, who happens to be dead but nonetheless unburdens herself about her sister Buster’s love child, Bernita Brown. Bernita is charmed with goodness and jumps into every household chore to keep from dwelling on her dismal family. She’s the only Brown daughter to go to college, aided by her teacher, Mr. Morris, and his wife, Anna Louise. Anna Louise dies as well and helps out Aunt Babe in the afterlife as they both look after Bernita, who becomes a social worker at Passageway House. Ever fearful of men because her grandfather was so mean, Bernita gets suckered into marrying handsome, fast-talking Tyrone Phillip Thomas; she leaves after finding him in bed with an even more handsome man. Tyrone can’t face up to being gay, but Bernita must face her own fears, and Aunt Babe lends a hand. But, first, on the rebound from Tyrone, Bernita falls for Jimmymack, a roughhouse bus driver studying to be a pastry chef. Then she falls for Re Member, who says he’s an African/Asian trapped in a white body. Re leads the Enlightened Ones and calls Bernita the African Queen for his African King. Then she tries Jesus and churchgoing, joins the church’s Wellness Center, but quits when she realizes she’s on the right track but the wrong train. At last Aunt Babe’s spirit shows up on Bernita’s couch and shows that she must face herself and forgive her family. She’ll be led toward the artist Douglas Ford, who’s also being guided by a dead relative: father Ray, a philanderer who didn’t even know his illegitimate son existed until he crossed over. Then Benita helps Douglas break through his own chains, and all’s well that ends well.
“Life and love keep on coming,” Aunt Babe tells us. And who’s to deny her? Many will identify.