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In 1963 rural Georgia, with the Vietnam War cranking up, pregnant seventeen-year-old Adie Jenkins discovers the diary of pregnant seventeen-year-old Tempe Jordan, a slave girl, begun as the Civil War was winding down. Adie is haunted by the memory of her dead sister; Tempe is overcome with grief over the sale of her three children sired by her master. Adie - married to Buck, her baby's skirt-chasing father - is unprepared for marriage and motherhood. She spends her days with her new baby, Grace Annie. Buck spends his with the conniving daughter of the man he works for.
Adie welcomes the friendship of midwife Willa Mae Satterfield. Having grown close to her after Grace Annie's birth, Adie confides that her baby sister, Annie, survived choking on a jelly bean only to drown in Cold Rock River a few months later. Willa Mae replies, "My two little chillins Georgia and Calvin drowns in that river, too." What she won't say is how and why.
Adie takes refuge in Tempe's journal. It tells an amazing tale, but the further she reads, the more questions the diary raises in her mind. After "the freedom" comes, Tempe sets out to find her lost children and meets Tom Barber, another freed slave. Tom and Tempe marry and have one daughter, Heart. When Tom is killed in a drunken brawl, Tempe takes Heart and settles on a small patch of land in North Georgia.
There, Heart blossoms, eventually marrying and giving birth to Georgia and Calvin. Adie is filled with questions: Could Willa Mae be Heart? How - and why - did the children die? And is it possible that the man who now owns the house in which she lives is Willa Mae's grandson?
As Cold Rock River rushes to its surprising, shocking ending, questions of family, race, love, loss, and longing are loosed from the mysterious secrets that have been kept for too long. And the depth of the connection between the two women united by place and separated by race - and a century - is revealed.
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J.L. MILES, a native of Racine, Wisconsin, lives and writes in Lilburn, Georgia. In addition to Cold Rock River, she also is the author of the novels Roseflower Creek and Divorcing Dwayne.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
I was five that spring Annie choked on a jelly bean. She was twenty months old; she wasn't supposed to have any. Mama made that quite clear. Sadly, I wasn't a child that minded well, so I gave Annie one anyway. I figured she ought to taste how good they were. I figured wrong.
Annie choked bad on that jelly bean, and her face turned blue. And Mama wasn't home. She'd gone to Calhoun to sell her prized jams; sold twelve jars of her double-lemon marmalade. Imagine that; there's Mama, waving folks over to get a sample of her jam-selling her heart out-and all the while Annie's choking to death.
My pa slapped Annie on her back; smacked her hard with the side of his hand, right between her shoulder blades. Pa had hands the size of skillets. He smacked her twice, but it didn't do any good-might of made it worse. Annie stopped making those sucking sounds like she did when her face turned colors, and her body went limp and her pretty blue eyes just rolled up and disappeared right inside her cute little head.
My older sisters, Rebecca and Clarissa-twin girls Mama had two years before she had me-got on their knees and prayed like preachers. They asked God not to take Annie from us. I didn't get on my knees. I watched Pa beat on Annie instead. It was more interesting. I didn't have anything against praying, mind you. We did it all the time in Sunday school and I knew most of the prayers they taught by heart, except for The Lord's Prayer, and I was working on that. "She can't die," I said. "She's in our family." It made perfect sense to me at the time.
"Oh hush, you ninny," Rebecca said. "You don't know nothing."
"Help us pray, Adie," Clarissa said.
I wasn't worried. I knew Annie couldn't die. Bad things like that only happened to strangers. The proof arrived daily in the newspaper Pa buried his face in. Mama had hers in the Bible or a cookbook, the hands on the clock determining which one. While she stirred the pot and touted miracles, he turned the pages and spouted mayhem. "She can't die," I shouted, stomping my feet, trying to get their attention.
Rebecca and Clarissa kept praying, and Pa kept pounding-his eyes big as mixing bowls. I started wailing. Pa dangled Annie upside down by her feet and ran with her like that all the way next door to Miz Patterson's. She wasn't home. She'd gone to Clarkston to see her grandbabies. She went every Friday; stayed the whole day-took me with her sometimes. She and her daughter Delores would sit on the front porch and sip iced tea and rock themselves dizzy while they watched Delores's kids-mostly boys-wrestle on the dirt ground that used to have grass. I wanted to tell Pa, but he ran out the door before I had a chance to. I chased after him but couldn't catch up; he was running two-forty.
"Call an ambulance, Rebecca!" he shouted. Annie was flopping like a rag doll washed one time too many.
"Miz Patterson!" Pa's voice sounded like the low keys on a piano when he talked and when he bellowed it got deep as a pipe organ that had a bad cold. Miz Patterson was as close as we ever came to a neighborhood nurse. Everybody went to her house when they needed doctoring. There was a path to her door on account of it. She didn't charge anything for her kindness. People gave her what they could; a cup of sugar, a few eggs, maybe a pound cake made with real butter. Bernice Harper gave her a banana crème pie when her son Willie fell over the handle bars of his bike and nearly bit his tongue off. After that, whenever I thought about Miz Patterson, that's what was on my mind. So, my pa's running over to her place, Annie's choking, and I'm thinking about that creamy slice of pie she gave me.
Pa ran back with Annie still hanging upside down. His face looked like a bear had scared him and his eyes agreed. At that tender age, I didn't know there was a word for that look-my father was terrified. It certainly got my mind off that pie. Rebecca was on the big black phone with the operator trying to explain where Route 3, Box 949 was.
"Well, it's in Cold Rock, but it's not on a street, ma'am," she said. "It's on a route! Ain't you ever hear of a route? Who hired you anyway?" Rebecca yelled. "Our baby Annie's dying. Get us a ambulance here, you ninny!"
Pa heard it all and realized help was not coming anytime soon. The look on his face got worse. His eyes were crazed as a horse that's been spooked by a snake. It scared me plenty. I dropped to my knees. "Pleasegodpleasegodpleasegodpleasegod..." I chanted, staring at Annie draped over Pa's arm. She was limp as a stuffed toy that had lost all its filling.
Pa stuck his thumb backwards down Annie's throat. I remember being comforted by the fact it wasn't me. Pa's big thumb stuck backwards down Annie's throat looked like a terrible way to die. But what do you know? That jelly bean popped right up out of her mouth! It spewed out with a bunch of vomit and splattered all over Mama's clean linoleum floor. Annie started coughing real hard and crying. Pa said, "Sssshhhhh, you're okay, baby. S'gonna be alright, now. Daddy's got ya." He hugged her to his chest and patted her softly on the back-like she was a China doll and would break-which I thought was very strange, seeing as he nearly pounded her to death when she was choking. Pa bent his head forward and buried his nose in her blonde curls. His shoulder muscles started dancing with each other.
"Pa's crying," Rebecca whispered.
"Don't cry, Pa!" Clarissa said and ran over and wrapped herself around one of his legs. He reached down with his free hand and rubbed her head, but his shoulders never stopped moving. That started Clarissa wailing, which got me upset, seeing as she was the one I favored. I ran over and hugged her.
Annie struggled to get free from Pa's arms. He eased her down, then wiped his face with the big kerchief he always kept in his back pocket. Clarissa stepped back and looked up at him while Annie toddled about. Pa was taller than a cornstalk with legs as skinny as stilts. He reached down and dried Clarissa's eyes. She was hiccupping and sucking her breath in and out. I rubbed her backside while Pa steadied Annie on her feet.
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Book Description Cumberland House, 2008. Condition: New. book. Seller Inventory # M1581826680
Book Description Cumberland House, 2008. Paperback. Condition: New. Never used!. Seller Inventory # P111581826680
Book Description Cumberland House. PAPERBACK. Condition: New. 1581826680 New Condition. Seller Inventory # NEW7.1627448