Cover image for Careful what you wish for : a novel
Careful what you wish for : a novel
Hermes, Myrlin A. (Myrlin Ambrosia)
Publication Information:
New York : Simon & Schuster, [1999]

Physical Description:
207 pages ; 23 cm
Format :


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X Adult Fiction Open Shelf

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Tremendous growth and change takes place as students move from childhood to adolescence. The rewards of working with this age group are enormous, but they can be a tough crowd for teachers. Read It in the Classroom! explores the challenges of understanding the developing needs of these students, ages 9 to 14.

Designed to help teachers incorporate literature into their reading programs, this valuable resource guides teachers and students as they grow away from pre-packaged programs and take ownership of their classrooms. Classroom-tested theme units and strategies include a wealth of reading material for children-fiction and non-fiction, trade and educational books-with numerous examples of student work. Concrete suggestions for organizing the classroom, the timetable, and a variety of reading and writing activities encourage students to grow as readers, allowing for individual differences and for the intergration of various curriculum areas. Extensive bibliographies list dozens of books to use in the classroom in innovative ways.

Allowing the freedom of choice in a reading/writing classroom requires new ways of making book selections, as well as new methods of evaluating learning and reading comprehension. Read It in the Classroom! provides a treasure-trove of ideas teachers can use, adapt, change and make their own.

Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

A sensitive Southern woman takes decades to learn from her past and make a genuine family connection in this emotionally laden first novel. Leavening her narrative with touches of mysticism, Hermes explores the fragile aspect of love and how the neurotic fear of losing it can have disastrous consequences. Protagonist Eleanor Blackmar Cline sets the plot in motion when, in 1949, she asks her husband to bring his biracial mistress, Natalie, into their house, so that they can save the money he is committing to Natalie's support. It's as if by forcing herself to face the reality of his infidelity, she will somehow bring closure to their tenuous relationship. The event shakes up the gossipy Southern town of Liberty, where Eleanor's family has lived for generations and where her wayward mother's reputation has dogged Eleanor almost from birth. Natalie's spirited audacity moves Eleanor to a surprised and genuine liking: the two women develop a deep bond. From Natalie, Eleanor acquires the courage to free herself from her shaming legacy and her empty marriage to her insanely jealous and physically abusive husband. She flees to New York, returning 15 years later for her husband's funeral, when she must face her grown son and the woman he loves, and try to explain the past. Hermes displays courage in her emotional explorations, revealing her characters' complex motives in extensive dialogue and unobtrusive third-person prose, then leading them to discover for themselves that in order to love or be loved, they must allow themselves to become vulnerable. Her grasp of domestic joy and sadness, and her evocation of life in a small Southern town, add texture to this uplifting weeper. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved



Prologue Above the tiny whistle-stop station that marks the town of Liberty, a bubble of memory hovers, repeating through the years; a woman steps down from the train onto the wooden platform. There is a screech of wheels behind her as the train pulls away, sliding south like a river or a snake through the grass, abandoning her to the town. She does not look back, but her fear and hope are so palpable and true that the sound of her heartbeat crystallizes in the crisp early-morning air, preserving the emotion perfectly, keeping the moment in case it is needed again. Nothing is ever lost in Liberty, not even time. She carries a piece of paper like a passport, clutched so tightly in her fist that her knuckles have turned white, though it could be just an illusion -- the way the morning light hits the fear radiating from her skin. She will show it as explanation to anyone who questions her right to be here. She reads the paper again, but most of the words are meaningless by now and do nothing to calm her. Only one word sparks her mind -- Liberty. She folds the paper back into her hand and continues through the tall, damp grass, toward the town. The sun is rising quickly now, and her shadow stretches out before her. She hurries, but she will not overtake it. She is walking into the future. She is walking into the past. 1963. Gossip travels more slowly through Liberty these days. Time was, it flew from person to person, carried on the threads that linked each soul invisibly, invincibly to a dozen others. Everyone was related somehow -- by blood or marriage or the sort of deep friendship or enmity that grows to be stronger than blood or marriage, and news didn't even need to be spoken aloud, but traveled along those ties that wove the town together like a fine piece of handmade lace. They did not need to be told the history of the town; it was inborn, rarely spoken, though sometimes a stranger passing through would ask how the town got its name. When in 1872 a lady carpetbagger stepped off the train, she spoke of the irony of slavery in a place called Liberty. The crowd stared at her blankly. They'd forgotten that the word had any meaning other than the two thousand acres of farmland and thin strip of road that made up the town. The carpetbagger, Helena Blackmar, had come to ensure that voting rights were upheld, only to find that in this tiny, remote town, the slaves hadn't even been told they were free. A crack of frustration crept into her voice, and she waved the paper in her hand like a flag while her young son dug a toe into the dirt. "This is a copy of the fifteenth amendment to the Constitution," she said. "Do you understand what that means?" The people shrugged and remained silent. You couldn't reason with a woman like that. She finally shut her mouth and stared at them until the veins popped out purple against her pale city skin. "Who is in charge here, anyway?" Finally, a question they could answer. Someone pointed the way, and, with her son in tow, Mrs. Blackmar marched up the steps of the tall white plantation house and demanded to speak to Jean Cardon. Jean Cardon had been a French nobleman in times that, whatever their other numerous characteristics, were particularly unkind to the French nobility. Lord only knows why he fled to America instead of the Caribbean, where some people at least spoke his language, but given how quickly his neighbors came to despise him without understanding what he said, perhaps it was just as well that he didn't settle someplace where every one of his insults was understood to the letter. His harshness had served him well; his escape from France had been less a matter of cunning or luck than one of cruelty. He did not try to save family or friends, did not look back as he booked his passage under an assumed name, his grandmother's jewels sewn into the lining of his opera cloak. The man who sold him two dozen strong, tame slaves paled when the foreign gentleman pulled out a knife and slit open his coat, letting rubies flow like blood. Did Cardon name his plantation Liberté as a sarcastic tribute to the revolutionaries who had driven him from his home? Or was he thanking God for his own freedom, his escape? No one but his slaves on Liberté ever came close enough to find out. There was no chance that the small farmers whose tiny plots of land clustered around his fields would pronounce the name correctly; they called it Liberty, and hated it so much they were willing, when the carpetbagger turned up, to give up the one or two slaves who worked beside them in their fields, if it meant getting rid of him as well. No one knew what he said to Mrs. Blackmar or she to him, but his slaves continued to appear before dawn in his fields and work until long after dusk. Helena Blackmar bought for cheap a parcel of land too ravaged by Johnson grass to be any use for farm or pasture. She hired men to build a house across the lake from Cardon's tall plantation house, where she could watch the lights come on in the evening and sometimes see shadows flickering against the windows. Helena grew herbs in her garden, made flowers spring up in soil that had choked everything but weeds. Across the lake, Cardon sickened. "Your mother's a witch," the boys in the school yard taunted Henry Blackmar as they shoved him against a tree, punching his face, his stomach. He touched his throbbing nose and felt something warm and sticky. "She's not a witch," he said, crumpled against the roots, but his bloody hand went to his father's cross hanging around his neck. Cardon died, leaving no descendants unless you counted a dozen mulatto bastards, which no one did. The farmers cast suspicious eyes at the Blackmar house, but quietly split Cardon's land among themselves and freed his slaves and hunting dogs. The plantation house fell into decay until it was bought and turned into a hotel and then (when it was found that no one would pay money just to sleep in Liberty) a brothel. But by 1963, even the brothel was dying down, the aging whores as familiar and predictable to the men as their own wives. Down ten miles of rough roads was Bradford, a mill town. It had a movie theater and high school and a drugstore with a soda fountain. The folks in Liberty thought of Bradford as urban. It was the only city that many of them had ever seen, and though in the back of their minds there was an awareness of places like New York and Boston and Paris, heaven had always seemed much clearer and more attainable. In 1963 those cities didn't seem so far away, though. More and more young people were moving away, and stories once known innately now needed to be spoken aloud. The woman slapping whitewash onto the railings of her porch could feel it. She had given birth to five children, and except for the oldest in the cemetery behind the church and the youngest lying on her stomach in the backyard, every single one of them was gone, married away or off to college and never come back except to visit. And even the youngest was dreaming of escape from Liberty. Who could blame them? The fabric of the town was unraveling. The arrival of someone new could still be felt in the air, though, a slight disturbance as the town tried to decide where the newcomer belonged. The woman on the porch felt the ripples even before she heard the whistle blowing at the station that afternoon, and in the dripping whitewash there was an expectancy, a question that once would have been answered almost before it had had a chance to form in her mind. As it was, she didn't know until she saw the figure with her own eyes (in trousers, and her hair cut short as a boy's, but the pride in her walk unmistakable, even after thirteen years), and she had no one to tell until her husband came home for supper. "Eleanor's back in town." He looked up, his eyebrows rising in surprise. "You mean John Cline's wife?" Even the daughter pricked her ears up then. She had only been a baby when it happened, but everyone knew the story of John Cline's wife -- how her husband had taken up with a colored girl half his age and flaunted her before his wife and the whole town -- but no one except John and the undertaker knew whether it was true that Eleanor had killed the girl, or the girl had killed her, or both of them had taken up and run off together like some women do. They just knew that one morning they were both gone, and John, behind the counter of the General Store as usual, was so stony-eyed and quiet no one dared risk a question. The woman nodded. "Eleanor," she said again. She didn't say the Blackmar girl, the last to be born with that name in Liberty. She set the casserole dish on the table. "I expect she's in town for the funeral. She had a piece of paper looked like a telegram." "The son got in yesterday, didn't he?" He reached to take his wife and daughter's hands for grace. With the other children gone, it was a stretch to keep their elbows from grazing the silverware. "I wonder if he's going to sell the house. It's good land, by the lake, but that place has been falling apart for years. Maybe I should talk to him about it." "You never know." She was lost in fragments of memory. The heat of that summer, thirteen years ago. The thick scent of honeysuckle. The sound of Eleanor's laugh. "You never know," she said again, softer this time. She took her husband's hand and they bowed their heads to God. Copyright © 1999 Myrlin Ambrosia Hermes. All rights reserved.