Predictable tale of a woman going back home and helping her struggling community.
Thirty years ago, African-American actress Josephine Evans landed on tour in Amsterdam and never came back. Now 58, she’s enjoyed decent success as the leading lady of a respected local theater. If the charismatic Josephine had stuck to narrating her interesting life history, this novel from Cleage (Baby Brother’s Blues, 2006, etc.) might have been an enjoyable character study. Regrettably, a conventional plot gets in the way. Suspended from her theater company (the director claims that Iraq-inspired anti-American sentiment makes it impossible for her to open the season), Josephine decides to take a trip to Atlanta to cosset her granddaughter Zora. Peripherally involved in a scandalous murder trial, trailed by paparazzi working for a local gossip magazine, the depressed Zora is pounding the booze and has dropped out of college in her senior year. She wants to escape the city, and Josephine figures she can help out by selling the house her mother left her in Atlanta. Unfortunately, the place is a mess. Rented out for years, it’s been stripped of everything valuable, and its once-glorious garden now serves as the neighborhood’s unofficial dump. Local developers want to scam Josephine into selling for a pittance, of course: They have big plans and she’s in the way. (They’ll stop at nothing to get her corner lot!) Instead, Josephine and Zora and a few other likeminded, good-hearted ladies decide to resurrect the neighborhood one house at a time. Zora films the entire reconstruction for the web, and now Josephine is a star in the United States, plus they’re clamoring for her return in Amsterdam. Should she go back to Europe? Develop a grassroots neighborhood revival in Atlanta with Zora? Will the corrupt developers get their comeuppance?
Good intentions, good politics and a spirited heroine can’t salvage the paint-by-numbers plot.