HOUSE OF LIGHT by Joyce Carol Thomas


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An African-American doctor is blessed with the power to heal bodies and souls: in the first adult fiction by noted YA author Thomas (The Bowlegged Rooster, 2000, etc.).

Dr. Abyssinia Jackson knows nearly everything about the people in her practice and even understands what they don't tell her. The close-knit black community of Ponca City, Oklahoma, respects and cherishes the dedicated physician, who sees to their every need, and her modest offices are known as the House of Light. Religion, even among these regular churchgoers, only goes so far. While Pearline prays for relief from her troubles by placing her hand on the radio during the preacher's sermon, she finally sees the light and goes to Dr. Jackson after a vicious beating from her jealous husband Isaiah. Fortunately, Pearline's long-lost friend Zenobia, a blues singer and a force to be reckoned with, is coming back to town on the 5:30 bus. If Zenobia can't sing some courage into her, no one can. Pearline's other big worry is her grandma Vennie, worn out by years of domestic service to a suspicious, cantankerous white woman. But Vennie gets by, if only thanks to Dr. Jackson, who even manages to help Isaiah with her instinctive understanding of the psychological demons that assail him. Zenobia goes to work as a housekeeper for a lonely widower who falls in love with her; she's saved by the good doctor when she runs out into the snow in an ecstatic trance and nearly freezes to death. Indeed, an ecstatic thread links all these souls, especially in the gospel songs of faith and redemption that all share and sing. Abyssinia's greatest gift comes at Christmas, when her daughter, Amber, returns from California carrying with her a song she has composed for her mother.

Lyrical, earthy prose gives this deceptively simple story depth and richness.

Pub Date: April 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-7868-6606-3
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Hyperion
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 2001