Live at Five

David Haynes, Author
David Haynes, Author Milkweed Editions $21.95 (0p) ISBN 978-1-57131-009-5
Reviewed on: 03/04/1996
Release date: 03/01/1996
Paperback - 267 pages - 978-0-15-600503-6
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The unlikely friendship between an African American TV newscaster and a struggling single mother, also black, lies at the heart of Haynes's touching--and wickedly funny--second adult novel (after Somebody Else's Mama, 1995; his Right By My Side, 1993, was cited by the ALA as one of their Best Books of the Year for Young Adults). Brandon Wilson, 38, anchors Channel 13, dead last in the news ratings in St. Paul, Minn. To boost viewership, the station manager sends an apprehensive Brandon to live in, and report from, one of the city's poorest neighborhoods. Moving into a shabby basement apartment, he meets Nita Sallis, the apartment manager, for whom every day is a balancing act: at 24, she juggles a full-time job, three children, night school and the needs of the building's tenants. Hassled and harried, Nita is vulnerable to the overtures of upstairs neighbor Sipp, a self-assured young man who tries to lure her into a lucrative drug deal. Although Brandon's nightly reports reveal a proud neighborhood, he remains convinced that he is missing the ""real"" story. When he learns of the drug deal, he envisions a ratings blockbuster, but Nita, who has impressed him with her resilience and spirit, stages a clever move that meets everyone's expectations and ends the novel on an upbeat note. Haynes lays down authentic characters, crisp dialogue and brisk narration; especially entertaining are the excerpts from Brandon's viewer mail. With this novel, Haynes should establish a reputation as a sharp-eyed observer of race and class issues. Author tour. (Mar.)
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