River, Cross My Heart: A Novel

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The acclaimed bestseller -- a selection of Oprah's Book Club -- that brings vividly to life the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, DC, circa 1925, and a community reeling from a young girl's tragic death.

When five-year-old Clara Bynum drowns in the Potomac River under a seemingly haunted rock outcropping known locally as the Three Sisters, the community must reconcile themselves to the bitter tragedy.
Clarke powerful charts the fallout from Clara's death on the people she has left behind: her parents, Alice and Willie Bynum, torn between the old world of their rural North Carolina home and the new world of the city; the friends and relatives of the Bynum family in the Georgetown neighborhood they now call home; and, most especially, Clara's sister, ten-year-old Johnnie Mae, who is thrust into adolescence and must come to terms with the terrible and confused emotions stirred by her sister's death.
This highly accomplished debut novel reverberates with ideas, impassioned lyricism, and poignant historical detail as it captures an essential and moving portrait of the Washington, DC community.
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About the author

Breena Clarke grew up in Washington, DC, and was educated at Webster College and Howard University. She is the author of two widely praised novels, River, Cross My Heart, which was a selection of Oprah's Book Club, and Stand the Storm. She lives in Jersey City, New Jersey.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Little, Brown
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Published on
Aug 1, 2017
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Pages
256
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ISBN
9780759520073
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Features
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Language
English
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Genres
Fiction / African American / Historical
Fiction / Coming of Age
Fiction / Family Life / General
Fiction / Historical / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Read Aloud
Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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It is 1950 and October Brown is a twenty-three-year-old first-year teacher thanking her lucky stars that she found a room in the best boardinghouse for Negro women teachers in Wyandotte County, Kansas. October falls in love with an unhappily married handyman, James Wilson, but when she becomes pregnant, James deserts her. Stunned, and believing that James will eventually come back to her, October decides to have the baby. But he doesn’t come back. As her reputation suffers, and with her job in jeopardy, she spends her days in self-deception and denial. Her best friend, Cora, contacts October’s family: her older sister, Vergie, and her aunts Frances and Maude, who raised the sisters after their mother was killed by their father.

October goes back to her family in Ohio and gives birth to her son. Numb, she gives the child–David–to Vergie and her husband to raise as their own, then returns to Kansas City to rebuild her life. But something is missing–and, apparently too late, October realizes what she has done.

What follows is the heartrending account of October’s efforts to reclaim her dignity, her profession, and her son, efforts that lead her into a bitter struggle with her sister and a confrontation with her parents’ violent past. The Midwest, the flourishing of modern jazz, and the culture of segregation form a compelling historical backdrop for this timeless and universal tale of one person’s battle to understand and master her own desires, and to embrace the responsibilities and promise of mature adulthood. October Suite plays a beautiful, haunting melody, turning everyday life into exceptional art.
In this beautifully written debut, Anna Jean Mayhew offers a riveting depiction of Southern life in the throes of segregation, what it will mean for a young girl on her way to adulthood—and for the woman who means the world to her . . .

On a scorching day in August 1954, thirteen-year-old Jubie Watts leaves Charlotte, North Carolina, with her family for a Florida vacation. Crammed into the Packard along with Jubie are her three siblings, her mother, and the family’s black maid, Mary Luther. For as long as Jubie can remember, Mary has been there—cooking, cleaning, compensating for her father’s rages and her mother’s benign neglect, and loving Jubie unconditionally.

Bright and curious, Jubie takes note of the anti-integration signs they pass, and of the racial tension that builds as they journey further south. But she could never have predicted the shocking turn their trip will take. Now, in the wake of tragedy, Jubie must confront her parents’ failings and limitations, decide where her own convictions lie, and make the tumultuous leap to independence . . .

Infused with the intensity of a changing time, here is a story of hope, heartbreak, and the love and courage that can transform us—from child to adult, from wounded to indomitable.


“Mayhew keeps the story taut, thoughtful and complex, elevating it from the throng of coming-of-age books.”
—Publishers Weekly

“Beautifully written, with complex characters, an urgent plot, and an ending so shocking and real it had me in tears.”
—Eleanor Brown, New York Times bestselling author of The Weird Sisters

“A must-read for fans of The Help.”
—Woman’s World
The newest Oprah’s Book Club 2.0 selection: this special eBook edition of The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis features exclusive content, including Oprah’s personal notes highlighted within the text, and a reading group guide. 
 
The arrival of a major new voice in contemporary fiction. 
 
A debut of extraordinary distinction: Ayana Mathis tells the story of the children of the Great Migration through the trials of one unforgettable family.

In 1923, fifteen-year-old Hattie Shepherd flees Georgia and settles in Philadelphia, hoping for a chance at a better life. Instead, she marries a man who will bring her nothing but disappointment and watches helplessly as her firstborn twins succumb to an illness a few pennies could have prevented.  Hattie gives birth to nine more children whom she raises with grit and mettle and not an ounce of the tenderness they crave.  She vows to prepare them for the calamitous difficulty they are sure to face in their later lives, to meet a world that will not love them, a world that will not be kind. Captured here in twelve luminous narrative threads, their lives tell the story of a mother’s monumental courage and the journey of a nation. 

Beautiful and devastating, Ayana Mathis’s The Twelve Tribes of Hattie is wondrous from first to last—glorious, harrowing, unexpectedly uplifting, and blazing with life. An emotionally transfixing page-turner, a searing portrait of striving in the face of insurmountable adversity, an indelible encounter with the resilience of the human spirit and the driving force of the American dream.
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