My aunt says if you smell butter on a foggy night you're getting ready to fall in love.
For the last twenty years, the beautiful Verdi Mae has led a comfortable life with Rowe, the conservative professor who rescued her from addiction when she was an undergrad. But her world is about to shift when the smell of butter lingers in the air and Johnson -- the boy from the back streets of Philadelphia who pulled her into the fire of passion and all the shadows cast from it -- returns to town.
In "this story of self-discovery that moves seamlessly between the early 1970s and early 1990s" (Publishers Weekly starred review), acclaimed writer Diane McKinney-Whetstone takes readers into a world of erotic love, drugs, and political activism, and beautifully illustrates the struggle to reconcile passion with accountability and the redemptive powers of love's rediscovery.
This P.S. edition features an extra 16 pages of insights into the book, including author interviews, recommended reading, and more.
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 love--charismatic and street-smart Johnson, the college flame who introduced Verdi to political activism and heroin--is 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.