What Looks LIke Crazy On an Ordinary Day (Idlewild)

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9780061710384: What Looks LIke Crazy On an Ordinary Day (Idlewild)
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After a decade of elegant pleasures and luxe living with the Atlanta brothers and sisters with the best clothes and biggest dreams, Ava Johnson has temporarily returned home to Idlewild—her fabulous career and power plans smashed to bits by cold reality. But what she imagines to be the end is, instead, a beginning. Because, in the ten-plus years since Ava left, all the problems of the big city have come to roost in the sleepy North Michigan community whose ordinariness once drove her away; and she cannot turn her back on friends and family who sorely need her in the face of impending trouble and tragedy. Besides which, that one unthinkable, unmistakable thing is now happening to her: Ava Johnson is falling in love.

Acclaimed playwright, essayist, New York Times bestselling author, and columnist Pearl Cleage has created a world rich in character, human drama, and deep, compassionate understanding, in a remarkable novel that sizzles with sensuality, hums with gritty truth, and sings and crackles with life-affirming energy.

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Review:

Oprah Book Club® Selection, September 1998: What makes Pearl Cleage's novel so damned enjoyable? At first glance, after all, What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day seems pretty heavy going: HIV, suicide, sudden infant death syndrome, and drunk driving all figure prominently in the lives of narrator Ava Johnson and her older sister Joyce. It isn't long before crack addiction, domestic violence, and unwed motherhood have joined the list--so, where's the pleasure? The answer lies in the sharp and funny attitude Cleage brings to her depiction of one African American community in the troubled '90s. Ava Johnson, for example, might be HIV-positive, but she's refreshingly forthright about it: "Most of us got it from the boys. Which is, when you think about it, a pretty good argument for cutting men loose, but if I could work up a strong physical reaction to women, I would already be having sex with them. I'm not knocking it. I'm just saying I can't be a witness. Too many titties in one place to suit me."

Ada has spent the last 10 years living in Atlanta. When she discovers she's infected, she sells her hairdressing business and heads back to her childhood home of Idlewild, Michigan, to spend the summer with her recently widowed sister before moving on to San Francisco. Once there, however, she finds herself embroiled in big-city problems--drugs, violence, teen pregnancy, and an abandoned crack-addicted baby, to name just a few--in a small-town setting. Ava also meets Eddie Jefferson, a man with a past who just might change her mind about the imprudence of falling in love.

In less assured hands, such a catalog of disasters would make for maudlin, melodramatic reading indeed. But Cleage, an accomplished playwright, has a way both with characters and with language that lifts this tale above its movie-of-the-week tendencies. In Ava she has created a character who not only effortlessly carries the weight of the story but also provides entertaining commentary on African American life as she goes. Discussing the insular nature of the black community in Atlanta, she recalls, "I'd walk into a reception room and there'd be a room full of brothers, power-brokering their asses off, and I'd realize I'd seen them all naked. I'd watch them striding around, talking to each other in those phony-ass voices men use when they want to make it clear they got juice, and it was so depressing, all I'd want to do was go home and get drunk." Later, she describes the preacher's wife's hair as "pressed and hot-curled within an inch of its life.... Hardly anybody asks for that kind of hard press anymore. Sister seems to have missed the moment when we decided it was okay for the hair to move."

As the trials and tribulations pile on, the experiences of Cleage's characters prove to be universal: death, love, second chances. Ava's acerbic, smart-mouthed narrative keeps the story buoyant; by the time this endearingly imperfect heroine and her cohorts have negotiated the rocky road to a happy ending, readers will be sorry to see her go, even as they wish her well. --Alix Wilber

About the Author:

Pearl Cleage is the author of Mad at Miles: A Black Woman's Guide to Truth and Deals with the Devil and Other Reasons to Riot. An accomplished Playwright, she teaches playwriting at Spelman College, is a cofounder of the literary magazine Catalyst and writes a column for the Atlanta Tribune. Ms. Cleage lives in Atlanta with her husband. What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day...is her first novel.

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Other Popular Editions of the Same Title

9780380975846: What Looks Like Crazy On an Ordinary Day (Oprah's Book Club)

Featured Edition

ISBN 10:  038097584X ISBN 13:  9780380975846
Publisher: William Morrow, 1997
Hardcover

9780380794874: What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day (Oprah's Book Club)

HarperPB, 1998
Softcover

9780733610653: What Looks Like Crazy On An Ordinary Day

Hodder..., 1998
Softcover

9780786217601: What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day

Thornd..., 2000
Softcover

9780786217595: What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day

Thornd..., 1999
Hardcover

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