“A wonderful, jazzy, exciting read.”
–Nikki Giovanni, author of Acolytes
Broke and burned-out from grad school, Shay Dixon does the unthinkable after receiving a “vision” from her de facto spiritual adviser, blues singer Nina Simone. She phones Nona, the mother she had all but written off, asking if she can come home for a while.
When Shay was growing up, Nona was either drunk, hungover, or out with her latest low-life guy. So Shay barely recognizes the new Nona, now sober and with a positive outlook on life, a love of gardening, and a toddler named Sunny. Though reconciliation seems a hard proposition for Shay, something unmistakable is taking root inside her, waiting to blossom like the morning glories opening up in Nona’s garden sanctuary.
Soon Shay finds herself facing exciting possibilities and even her first real romantic relationship. But when an unexpected crisis hits, even the wise words and soulful melodies of Nina Simone may not be enough for solace. Shay begins to realize that, like orange mint and honey, sometimes life tastes better when bitter is followed by sweet.
“Carleen Brice has woven her talent for storytelling into a funny, sad, and perceptive novel that speaks to all of us who navigate less-than-perfect relationships with our parents or children.”
–Elyse Singleton, author of This Side of the Sky
“Brice deftly shows the importance and joy of understanding our past and not only forgiving those who hurt us, but loving them in spite of that hurt. Readers of Terry McMillan and Bebe Moore Campbell will find a new writer to watch.”
–Judy Merrill Larsen, author of All the Numbers
In Brice's accomplished debut, African-American Shay Dixon, a burnt-out grad student, has a visitation/fantasy/fever dream featuring Nina Simone, the high priestess of soul, who counsels Shay to go home. To do that, she must face Nona, the drunken failure of a mother she's not spoken to in seven years and blames for a harrowing childhood that left her emotionally scarred. Still, she takes Nina's advice, heads home to Denver and discovers that Nona's now an A.A. member with a good job, a lovely home and an adorable three-year-old girl, Sunny, Shay's half-sister. Their reconciliation is complicated by Shay's stubborn anger, Nona's A.A. sponsorship of a troubled young woman and Shay's sexual awakening. Brice's straightforward prose is dead-on in describing the challenges Shay and her mother face as they reconnect.