cover image Singing in the Comeback Choir

Singing in the Comeback Choir

Bebe Moore Campbell / Author Putnam $24.95 (372p) ISBN 978-0-3

A sheen of emotional slickness prevents Campbell's disappointing third novel from achieving the resonance of her earlier work (Brothers and Sisters; Your Blues Ain't Like Mine). Two women struggle to overcome betrayal. Professionally successful and newly pregnant, Maxine McCoy, an African American TV producer, tries to regain marital trust after her husband's brief infidelity. During a sweeps period that will determine her talk show's future, Maxine leaves L.A. and returns to North Philadelphia to attend to Malindy Walker, the grandmother who raised her. Once a moderately famous club singer, Lindy is depressed and rebellious after a recent mild stroke; she also continues to nurse deep resentment for the manager who swindled her. An invitation to sing at an important music festival seems just the stimulus Lindy needs, yet she refuses either to participate or to move out of her declining neighborhood despite Maxine's repeated urging to do both. Just as a small accidental house fire shakes Lindy from her emotional paralysis, Maxine must leave Lindy on her own when she returns to her job. Amid professional havoc and personal doubts, a chance encounter with a former student helps Maxine discover inner peace, which she uses to help herself and Lindy leave the past behind and move happily forward. Campbell does a nice job of drawing the intriguing complexities of Maxine and Lindy's relationship, but the subtlety that distinguishes the best passages is markedly absent from most of the book, which is undermined by broad characterizations and an implausibly neat conclusion. First serial to Essence; BOMC main selection; author tour. (Feb.)