In this sequel to his acclaimed "urban masterpiece" (The Philadelphia Inquirer), the national bestseller Dead Above Ground, Jervey Tervalon's unforgettable heroine, Lita Du Champ, is at loose ends, trying to hold house and home together. Ten years after she, her husband, their children, and her twin sisters moved to Los Angeles, the past comes back to haunt her. An unwelcome phone call reveals that Lita's estranged father is on his deathbed and that her aunt has seen Lita's beloved mother -- never mind that the woman has been dead for a decade. Overwhelmed by long-suppressed memories, Lita realizes that she must return to New Orleans to come to terms with her history, but as she makes the journey a growing sense of dread takes root in her soul. She's certain there will be no simple return to the life she led in Los Angeles.
This muddled sequel to Dead Above Ground opens when the protagonist of the first book, Lita Du Champ, is summoned back to New Orleans after a decade in Los Angeles when she learns that her father is dying. Tervalon presents a jumbled series of flashbacks, introducing secondary characters at a rapid-fire rate while providing precious little background for readers unfamiliar with Dead Above Ground. The upshot of the flashbacks is that Lita's family is in chaos. Her mother is long dead, killed in a fire set by the man who killed Lita's sister Adele. Lita, married to Winston, a mechanic, takes in her younger twin sisters, Ava and Ana. As the twins grow up in Los Angeles, Ava becomes unmanageable and runs away to Las Vegas to get married at the tender age of 17. Lita's response to this sort of trouble is to grab a broom and lash out with it some of her encounters with family members verge on the slapstick. Once the novel finally settles in the present, it is disorganized and incomplete, flitting from one subplot to the next. In the mawkish, over-the-top climax, Lita and her twin sisters band together to banish their mother's ghost from her old house, which Lita has inherited. Lita, a black woman who can pass as white but often chooses not to, is an intriguing if cartoonish character, and Tervalon's tone is refreshingly unsentimental, but his unfocused approach leads to a severe case of sequelitis.