Only Twice I've Wished for Heaven

Dawn T. Trice, Author Crown Publishers $23 (304p) ISBN 978-0-517-70428-8
Narrated from a distance of 20 years, this powerful debut novel re-creates the month that changed the life of a sheltered African American girl, 11-year-old Tempestt ""Temmy"" Saville, initiating her into the violence and rage her middle-class family thought they had escaped. In Chicago in 1975, Temmy witnesses the death of her best friend. Narrating the tale along with grown-up Temmy is 60-ish Miss Jonetta Goode, a big-hearted former prostitute who keeps watch over the fragile souls on Thirty-fifth Street from behind her counter in O'Cala Food and Drug. Temmy encounters Miss Jonetta and the hellishly fascinating Thirty-fifth Street by escaping Lakeland, the fenced-in enclave of black professionals where her family lives. Sensing that something is bothering her friend, Valerie, who lives part-time in Lakeland with her father and stays the rest of the week with her mother in the projects, Temmy inspires Jonetta to deputize two O'Cala regulars to observe Valerie and her mother. They discover that Ruth has been selling Valerie to men to finance her drug habit. The information comes too late to save Valerie. Temmy, the only witness to her friend's death, is frozen into silence, unable to speak up when a disreputable street preacher is accused and convicted of the girl's murder. Trice creates vibrant characters via the counterpointed voices of Temmie and Jonetta. As each interprets events within the range of her knowledge and expectations, Trice obliquely provides insight into the crucial social issues that help shape the lives of African Americans. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 12/30/1996
Release date: 01/01/1997
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