Cover image for Blues dancing : a novel
Title:
Blues dancing : a novel
Author:
McKinney-Whetstone, Diane.
Personal Author:
Edition:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : W. Morrow, [1999]

©1999
Physical Description:
307 pages ; 24 cm
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780688149956
Format :
Book

Available:*

Library
Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Status
Frank E. Merriweather Library X Adult Fiction Open Shelf
Searching...

On Order

Summary

Summary

From the beloved author of Tumbling and Tempest Rising comes a new novel, Blues Dancing--a richly spun tale of love and passion, betrayal, redemption, and faith, set in contemporary Philadelphia.

In the early seventies, Verdi, a pampered, cloistered daughter of a southern preacher, heads to Philadelphia to enroll at the university. There she meets Johnson, a city boy. Their differences draw them together--he loves her gentility, she is seduced by his charisma. Their relationship is pure sweetness until Johnson teaches her the one thing that will change her life irrevocably--how to love heroin.

Enter Rowe, the conservative black professor who rescues Verdi from her overwhelming addiction and then falls desperately in love with her, leaving his sophisticated wife for this confused southern girl. Rowe and Verdi live a comfortable existence for twenty years, even though he attempts to strain Verdi's relationship with her first cousin and dearest friend, Kitt. As the novel opens, Kitt tells Verdi that Johnson is back in town and Verdi feels her safe and protected world teeter off balance. Once they lay their eyes on each other, they realize that the years have not dulled their passion as they skid uncontrollably toward the desires of their youth. Blues Dancing makes for rich interplay as the author allows time to inform her characters' lives in provocative ways.In the early seventies, Verdi, a pampered, cloistered daughter of a southern preacher, heads to Philadelphia to enroll at the university. There she meets Johnson, a city boy. Their differences draw them together--he loves her gentility, she is seduced by his charisma. Their relationship is pure sweetness until Johnson teaches her the one thing that will change her life irrevocably--how to love heroin.

Enter Rowe, the conservative black professor who rescues Verdi from her overwhelming addiction and then falls desperately in love with her, leaving his sophisticated wife for this confused southern girl. Rowe and Verdi live a comfortable existence for twenty years, even though he attempts to strain Verdi's relationship with her first cousin and dearest friend, Kitt. As the novel opens, Kitt tells Verdi that Johnson is back in town and Verdi feels her safe and protected world teeter off balance. Once they lay their eyes on each other, they realize that the years have not dulled their passion as they skid uncontrollably toward the desires of their youth. Blues Dancing makes for rich interplay as the author allows time to inform her characters' lives in provocative ways.In the early seventies, Verdi, a pampered, cloistered daughter of a southern preacher, heads to Philadelphia to enroll at the university. There she meets Johnson, a city boy. Their differences draw them together--he loves her gentility, she is seduced by his charisma. Their relationship is pure sweetness until Johnson teaches her the one thing that will change her life irrevocably--how to love heroin.

Enter Rowe, the conservative black professor who rescues Verdi from her overwhelming addiction and then falls desperately in love with her, leaving his sophisticated wife for this confused southern girl. Rowe and Verdi live a comfortable existence for twenty years, even though he attempts to strain Verdi's relationship with her first cousin and dearest friend, Kitt. As the novel opens, Kitt tells Verdi that Johnson is back in town and Verdi feels her safe and protected world teeter off balance. Once they lay their eyes on each other, they realize that the years have not dulled their passion as they skid uncontrollably toward the desires of their youth. Blues Dancing makes for rich interplay as the author allows time to inform her characters' lives in provocative ways.


Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Delving again into the Philadelphia she claimed in her first two novels (Tumbling; Tempest Rising), McKinney-Whetstone gives a rhapsodic performance in this story of self-discovery that moves seamlessly between the early 1970s and early '90s. At its heart is Verdi, a woman fast approaching 40, who lives with Rowe, the older professor who saved her from a drug habit when she was an undergrad. Now the recently appointed principal at a school for special-needs children, Verdi is enjoying a relatively stable life when she learns that her first loveÄcharismatic and street-smart Johnson, the college flame who introduced Verdi to political activism and heroinÄis back in town. Running into Johnson unexpectedly at a cousin's birthday party, Verdi finds her feelings for him far from dead as they face each other and seem to sense "their blues dancing." But Verdi's attraction to Johnson, who's now an established fund-raiser, raises questions about her long-kicked habit and about her relationship with Rowe. Gracefully dovetailing with the love triangle are the equally complex and eloquent stories of Verdi's mother, aunt and, especially, her close-as-a-sister cousin Kitt. Pitch-perfect dialogue and a keen eye capture the spirit and cadences of the early '70s, when students were "booking" between Black Students League events and listening to the Stylistics on the record player. The author pegs the caring but comfy zeitgeist of the '90s as well. Verdi's evolution, from sheltered but curious daughter of a Southern preacher to drug-addicted student to stifled partner of an overprotective father figure, is all too credible. Flashbacks to the early days of the erstwhile lovers' relationship shimmer with the intoxication of first love, while their later encounters powerfully reveal their vulnerability to old desires. The novel's swift resolution may seem improbable, but even the tidiest wrap-up can't help but satisfy readers who have become passionately involved in the fates of these winning characters. Agent, Pam Bernstein. 11-city author tour. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Library Journal Review

A love story spanning 20 years, this novel, like the author's earlier ones (Tumbling and Tempest Rising), is set in Philadelphia. Despite a trite-sounding plotÄstar-crossed loversÄLJ's reviewer said the book had "real depth and emotion." (LJ 10/1/99) (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

Blues Dancing A Novel Chapter One This night air was filled with low-hanging clouds. The kind that softened everything they covered with a smoky blue haze that felt like a dream. Like this neighborhood way west of the river that had declined over the years from a place of majestic three-storied rows to intermittent blocks of good and bad and devastated; like the too-young boys in too-loose clothes hanging on these corners doing deals that would make the devil beam; even memories of a time when a girl becoming a woman had thrown away her promise as if it were a tattered rag, and descended into a drain lined with syringes, bent spoons, and long-sleeved shirts dotted with her innocent, middle-class southern blood. It all took on a floaty, shimmering effect inside these clouds and became appealing in a way that was both sultry and safe. Especially through the back window of this yellow cab. Especially to Verdi as she gave in to the softening powers of the fog. She nestled against the cracked leatherette seat as the air swayed in and out through the window. Two-faced March air, chilly yet impatient for spring, so it had a filmy warmth to it, she picked it apart for the warmth rather than close the window, siphoned through the myriad aromas trapped and kept close by the low-slung clouds as the cab rolled past the gone-to-bed homes and businesses of West Philly: someone had liver and onions for dinner here, turnips there; she could smell chicken grease from the take-out wings place on Fifty-second Street; curry from the Indian restaurant as they got closer to the University City section where Verdi lived with her life mate, Rowe; nutmeg, thyme, from the House of Spices. And there it was. Butter. No mistaking it, the smooth milky aroma concentrated under this fog. It went straight to her head, swooned her because her aunt Posie was superstitious about things like that, said that a whiff of collards on a Wednesday means you're getting ready to get paid, or the scent of lemons when it's snowing means somebody close is pregnant, the hint of fish frying on a Thursday means you're having overnight guests for the weekend, and the smell of butter on a foggy night means you're getting ready to fall in love. "You smell that?" she said excitedly to the back of the cabdriver's head. "I don't smell nothzing, my cab clean, lady." She yelled at him to stop then and she rarely yelled at people like cabdrivers, elevator operators, the ones who vacuumed the carpet at the special-needs school where she was principal. Figured she'd be working thus if Rowe's large hands hadn't rushed in and broken her fall when she'd tumbled from her heightened station in life. Told the cabdriver to stop right now, let her out, she needed to get out. "You sure, lady? Here? That lady who tip me said I wait till you in your door." "She worry too much, I'll be fine," Verdi said, talking about Kitt, her close first cousin, her aunt Posie's daughter with whom she'd spent the evening, who'd walked outside with Verdi and stuck her head in the cab as it was about to pull off. "You call me if that arrogant pompous professor you shacked up with gives you any shit about staying out so late," Kitt had said. She'd waved Kitt away like she was trying to do to the cabdriver now. But he just sat there reluctant to leave her out here like this. She didn't know what it was about herself that made people want to watch over her, thought maybe it was her eyes with their downward slant, or how she wore her hair relaxed bone straight and cut close the way Rowe liked it, or her thinness, he liked her thin too though she preferred herself when she'd had a curve to her hips. She leaned into the cab window, whispered into the driver's face, "My aunt says if you smell butter on a foggy night you're getting ready to fall in love." She made her eyes go big, lowered her voice even more the way her aunt would do. "And if you're walking alone when you smell it-" "Yeah? Yeah? What happen?" Verdi didn't know the rest, when her aunt got to this part her face would glaze over in an oily sheen, she'd start fanning herself and shaking her head. Lord have mercy is all her aunt could say after that. "It's just better that's all," she said to the cabdriver as she turned and started walking toward home. She took measured steps though she knew she should be rushing if she were going to stick to the story she'd fed Rowe earlier. She hated that she'd lied, such a harmless thing too, spending the evening at Kitt's house. But Rowe despised her cousin so. Went on and on about her lack of degrees and couth whenever Verdi let on about her Visits there. So rather than hear him rant about her first cousin with whom she felt closer than a sister, Verdi told him that she was going in town to get her nails done, to get chocolate-covered-coconut eggs for the baskets she was doing for the younger ones at her school. Not Godiva but better than the Acme brand; ran around after work then to at least get the eggs, then begged Kitt for a manicure after they'd pushed back from another one of Kitt's culinary masterpieces. This air was too creamy to rush through anyhow as it settled on her forehead now, stroked her, slowed her steps even more. She needed to walk, not for the sensation of the buttery aroma swimming around in her head, nor for falling in love, she'd been in love once, loved Rowe most of the time now. Right now she walked because, because why? she asked herself. Because. She just wasn't ready to go home yet. Blues Dancing A Novel . Copyright © by Diane McKinney-Whetstone . Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold. Excerpted from Blues Dancing by Diane McKinney-Whetstone All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Google Preview