Undying love.

Sometimes a book grabs you by the throat and won’t let go. This one grabs your heart and leaves you breathless. I’ve been flailing about this book for two days; I managed to garble out two separate nonsensical reviews of love-vomit that said absolutely nothing. Let me explain:

Imagine if Nicholas Sparks were an intelligent woman,  writing a love story where the shocking twist is known from the start, and the angst wraps you in sniffly sweetness rather than a sledgehammer to the gut. Then add a sense of humor and a bit of sexy.  Cyndy Aleo would still be better.


Her book flies in short chapters, with alternating points of view between a young couple learning that ’til death do us part might actually last a bit longer; on the third day (and yes, there is cheeky reference to The Story) Adrienne comes back from the dead, and she and dreamy husband Cam must figure out how to deal with a modern second coming.

(Did I mention he is dreamy? The author actually gives us very little idea what Cameron Tattersall looks like, but we know he’s gorgeous, because anyone so in love with his wife has to be good looking.)

While they sort through the repercussions of a miracle, and learn to trust each other again, we also watch Adge’s battle with breast cancer through a backward mirror, and the devastation it causes to the loved ones around her.

This is where the story becomes personal for me.

The pink ribbon runs its poison through my genes. I know when an author gets it wrong. Doesn’t do their research. Glosses over the wrong details. Or deliberately presses the toxic buttons, and relies on the same painful cliches.

But Cyndy Aleo captures this tough subject with enough sensitivity and distance to buffer the reader from the horrors of the disease. She blurs details and avoids the procedural jargon (that can “date” a story  within months, due to medical advances), instead showing the effects the tragedy has on the couple, and how their love carries them through. This book isn’t about the viciousness of cancer, it’s about love and laughter, and leaps of faith.

There were times I looked for an M. Knight Shamalamadingdong twist–that ‘and then he wakes up moment’–a few loose ends leave the reader wondering what might be a clue, a hint of–oh, so that’s what really is going on–but nothing so crude mars the trust that the author builds through to the very end.

Irreverent, charming, and so sweet.
Go read it!

Kaffir Lily

I work with an actress every so often-
I give her long sleeves to gesture with, and she gives me her patience, and conversation about women, and writing, and community, and I consume the time we share in the dressing room -me sewing buttons between monologues while she paints her face with glitter- the way I feed on books; too fast, gulping at words and concepts, rushing to get to the next course, because I will not see her for another few years, when we will meet by fate or the grace of William Shakespeare.

kaffir-3x5x721Bianca Spriggs is a poet, and I see her on the local PBS station where the term Affrilachian Artist is used to describe a literary movement, which I find both exciting and excluding -I want to be a part of something with so much definition, such identity- and I listen, smiling at the voice I’ve heard as a witch, as an Egyptian handmaiden, as a queen, and I am, as always, pulled into her voice.

I just found KAFFIR LILY in the funky coffee shop around the corner from the Caribbean cafe that has no place in this town (except this town is contrary like that, so it has one). In all our talk backstage this summer, she never told me she had a book.

It’s a slim book and reads like an actress trying on costumes: some poems svelte and lemonade fresh, some with urban rhinestone attitude, and some soft, gamine and curvy, but they are all feminine, and observant, eyes wide open and drinking in life.
From “The Switch Pickers” and “Masquerade of Queens,” to “Juke Dreams” and “My Kinda Woman,” they all have good titles. I have no favorite, though I read some more than once, and “Still Life” three, but lines find me through the day, like the echo of an imagined phone:
Tall drink of water, she got a secret sort of smile-
And some follow after, whispering like the train of a dress:
Their fragrance, an opiate,
seeps through the house from his speakers,
overlapping in heady arrangements.
He happens to be an alchemist
of genre fusion, of the hybrid bloom.