Black family, deep roots, abiding love.
Crita Carter lives in New York but she isn’t from there. Her father’s roots are in rural Mississippi, her mother’s in blue-collar Cleveland, where Crita grew up, the daughter of a 1950s siren in a poodle skirt whose sexy pout charmed Henry Carter into marriage. An early morning call from her mother brings bad news: Henry, the father who stands impossibly tall and strong in her childhood memories, is very sick, and no one knows why. Crita heads for Alexandria, Virginia, to pick up her married sister, and as the crowded urban settings give way to the flat openness of Ohio, they begin to retell the stories that shaped their lives, going all the way back to their beautiful, pipe-smoking grandmother. Vinola Ellis Carter, who eked out a living on a dirt farm, was beloved by her children but nearly killed in a fit of jealous rage by her husband. Yet she endured, and the next generation prospered. Henry Carter inherited enough of his father’s temper that Crita and her sisters grew up knowing better than to cross him, but son Linc turned from a promising athlete into a junkie beyond hope or help. Caught between desire for an old love, Tree, and feelings for her dying father, Crita is at sixes and sevens. She attempts a reconciliation with Linc, out of control and near death from multiple addictions. Because of him, Crita is critically wounded in a street-corner shooting and hovers in a morphine dream between this world and the next, seeing visions of her father and her family. Linc recovers, and Crita survives, but Henry Carter does not.
Somber, controlled prose lends dignity to this family drama, though the emotions seem oddly muted. Still, a polished and promising debut.