In 1989, Gayle Saunders Hilliard is living a nightmare. Her husband, Ramsey, a compulsive gambler, has committed suicide, leaving Gayle, her young daughter and her widowed mother destitute. Pressed to add to her income as a receptionist, Gayle, who is African American, takes a part-time job as a maid at a suburban New York hotel, where she encounters her childhood best friend, Pat Reid, a polished executive for an ad agency. Pat, who was taken in by Gayle's parents and brought up as family after her mother abandoned her, hasn't spoken to Gayle in 10 years?ever since Gayle neglected to pick her up at an abortion clinic because she was tied up with her gambler husband. In flashbacks, we see Gayle's upbringing as the indulged child of older parents, and Pat's need to revise her family history as she becomes a workaholic and claws her way up the hierarchy of Manhattan corporate life. Eventually, the two draw upon their shared past to rebuild their lives. The authors have collaborated seamlessly on this well-paced debut. Their heroines are balanced and clearly drawn, while their plot manages to spring myriad surprises without resorting to obvious gimmickry. In an age when personal responsibility is often abrogated in the name of early childhood emotional trauma, Pat and Gayle are refreshingly honest characters, accepting of their own and each other's shortcomings.
This novel about the friendship of three African Americans from their childhood meeting through their present-day lives is filled with fast-paced events that pull readers into the story. Gayle Saunders, growing up in a home with caring, loving parents, seems to have it all?beauty, charisma, and eventually a rich, handsome husband and a beautiful daughter; she loses almost everything and ends up in a homeless shelter. Patricia Reid is a tossed-away child who struggles for acceptance by becoming an academic and, later, a corporate success; she strives for perfection before revealing her true identity to her wealthy father; she becomes emotionally empty and another victim of downsizing. Marcus Carter becomes the baseball hero he's never wanted to be and almost kills himself in the process. He seems on a self-destructive course until he faces the truth about his brother's death. As adolescents, the lives of the three are forever intertwined when they witness the gun accident that kills Marcus's brother. The choices they make throughout their lives lead to undesirable consequences but result in each person becoming a worthwhile and compassionate adult. In the satisfying ending, Gayle, Pat, and Marcus emerge from their desolation and all is right with their world. The story is filled with lessons about life, including the church as a social haven and the value and necessity for true friends and family. YAs will identify with these strong personalities as they struggle to overcome real problems in a contemporary world.